"From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945–1952"

Critics' pick
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Saint Louis Art Museum
Norman Lewis, Twilight Sounds, 1947
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Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
Norman Lewis, Magenta Haze, 1947
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The Museum of Modern Art
Norman Lewis, Phantasy II, September 23, 1946
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The Pamela Joyner and Alfred Giuffrida Collection Art © The Estate of Norman W. Lewis
Norman Lewis, Untitled, 1949
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Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
Norman Lewis, Crossing, 1948
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Elisha Hawkins Collection of African and African American Art Art © The Estate of Norman W. Lewis
Norman Lewis, Florence, 1947
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Courtesy Rodney M. Miller Collection Art © The Estate of Norman W. Lewis
Norman Lewis, Jazz Band, 1948
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Museum of Fine Arts
Norman Lewis, Every Atom Glows: Electrons in Luminous Vibration, 1951
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Private Collection Art © The Estate of Norman W. Lewis
Norman Lewis, Untitled (Vertical Abstraction), c. 1952
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Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
Norman Lewis, Untitled, 1946
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Collection of the Art Fund
Norman Lewis, Alabama II, 1969
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Courtesy of the Estate of Norman W. Lewis
Norman Lewis, Self-Portrait, 1939
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Collection of Kenkeleba House. Art © The Estate of Norman W. Lewis
Norman Lewis
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The Jewish Museum
Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1948
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Private Collection
Lee Krasner, Stop and Go (formerly Yes and No), 1949
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Roy J. Zuckerberg © 2014 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS)
Lee Krasner, Noon, 1947
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Courtesy The Pollock-Krasner Foundation and Robert Miller Gallery
Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1950
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Private Collection © 2014 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS)
Lee Krasner, Image Surfacing, c. 1945
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Nancy Margolis King © 2014 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS)
Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1949
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Philadelphia Museum of Art
Lee Krasner, Composition, 1949
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Museum of Modern Art
Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1949
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Courtesy The Pollock-Krasner Foundation and Robert Miller Gallery
Lee Krasner, Lava, c. 1950
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Collection of halley k harrisburg and Michael Rosenfeld © 2014 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS)
Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1948
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Collection of halley k harrisburg and Michael Rosenfeld © 2014 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS)
Lee Krasner, Untitled (Little Image), 1950
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Robert Miller Gallery
Lee Krasner, Kufic, 1965
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The Jewish Museum
Lee Krasner, Self-Portrait, c. 1930
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© 2014 The Pollock- Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS)
Lee Krasner with Stop and Go, c. 1949

The default assumption about Abstract Expressionism is that it was overwhelmingly white, straight and male. The Jewish Museum sets out to complicate that picture by revisiting the careers of Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, artists who were female and African-American, respectively. The show is worth a visit even if its premise is bogged down by identity politics’ propensity to reduce individuals to categories—here, gender and race.

Society does much the same thing, though an exhibition title like “From the Margins” buys into these cultural prejudices more than it explodes them. AbEx was a broader and more diverse phenomenon than we allow but not because of what the people involved happened to be but rather because of who they were—in this instance, artists rooted in European modernism, trying to find their way within a postwar order that had fallen into America’s lap.

Their styles are well matched, with compositions both dense and finely rendered. There’s no attacking the canvas, à la Pollock and De Kooning, no swallowing the viewer in overweening gestalt à la Rothko and Newman. Yet Krasner’s and Lewis’s efforts were just as vital, and the opportunity to see their work provides a necessary correction to the standard historical narrative.

Pollock’s wife, Krasner, was interested in the power of language. While a few of her works resemble Pollock’s drips in miniature, her paintings are mostly patterned with glyphs that, however indecipherable, boil written meaning down to an abstract presence.

Lewis, meanwhile, shared Pollock’s initial interest in Picasso. His paintings essentially transform Cubist still life into all-over compositions. Cerebral and self-contained, these works seem less concerned with making grand statements than in articulating a personal vision.

In the end, shows like this one are welcome. But Krasner and Lewis can stand on their own without the ideological framework.—Howard Halle

 

Event phone: 212-423-3200
Event website: http://thejewishmuseum.or

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