Point of Connection: Roy Newell and William Scharf
August 4–26, 2022
521 West 26th Street, 1st Floor
New York, NY 10001
Visionary artists Roy Newell (1914–2006) and William Scharf (1927–2018) single-mindedly pursued their own forms of abstraction. An original member of the early days of what coalesced into Abstract Expressionism and a close friend of Willem de Kooning, Newell initially created large gestural paintings like his peers but after a series of successful exhibitions in the mid-1950s, he curiously withdrew from public view and instead chose to scale down his paintings. Newell’s mature works from the 1960s resonate with a philosophical strain in American art as represented by the work of Ad Reinhardt, Alfred Jensen, and Agnes Martin that sought to prioritize geometric universality over individual psychological expression. It was only Newell, however, who maintained the skewed angle of forms as a fundamental feature of his compositions.
On the other hand, Scharf’s works shift to the mythological and traffic in rich symbolic language. Steeped in mystery and shot through with surrealist biomorphism, his atmospheric canvases feature jewel-toned forms that seem to float in the primordial ether. His close friendship with Mark Rothko particularly informed his interest in color and Scharf often incorporated recurring symbols that allude to foundational actions of creation and life cycles, such as in Untitled (1962) with its egg-like forms aglow against a shadowy, oozing background.
Despite these two artists’ significant differences in style, a surprising point of connection lies in their shared reverence for the late nineteenth-century artist Albert Pinkham Ryder. Often citing Ryder as one of his favorite artists, Scharf found kinship in Ryder’s psychologically intense, allegorical works, whereas Newell self-identified with Ryder on the grounds of their similar obsessive working habits. Ryder often worked on paintings for ten years or more, building up extremely impastoed layers of paint and resin. Indeed, one of the most distinctive features of Newell’s art is his compulsion to paint over works, reworking the same surfaces repeatedly for decades, to the point of sculptural encrustation. Newell described what he was trying to achieve in his work as “compression”: compressing long passages of time and experience into a single object. In a fascinating coincidence, Newell discovered that his studio was the very studio that Ryder had worked and lived in decades prior.
Point of Connection puts into visual dialogue two important painters who came up as artists in the milieu of the Abstract Expressionism movement but ultimately forged their own distinctive approaches. Though Scharf’s gestural brushwork aligns him with Abstract Expressionists, his use of mythological symbols and metaphorical dramas have greater resonances with visionary artists such as William Blake or Ryder. And Newell’s color schemes find parallels in the works of abstractionists such as Hans Hofmann. But upon his self-imposed isolation in the mid-1950s, Newell created paintings completely on his own terms, slowly and deliberately, maintaining them “in a kind of perpetual present,” as Roberta Smith wrote in a review for the New York Times. For these two artists, whose lives were consecrated to artistic creation, the stakes were high in exploring new avenues in abstraction. As Newell once told a fellow artist, “I can feel it when I’m getting near the truth of a painting.
***Please Note, there will be NO opening reception for this exhibit***
Hollis Taggart Galleries
521 W. 26th Street
New York, New York
About Hollis Taggart
Hollis Taggart—formerly known as Hollis Taggart Galleries—was founded in 1979, with a mission to present museum-quality works of art, maintain a program motivated by scholarship, and offer personalized support in all aspects of art collecting. For nearly 40 years, the gallery has offered significant works of American art—showcasing the trajectory of American art movements from the Hudson River School to American Modernism and Post-War and Contemporary eras—and curated countless critically acclaimed shows in collaboration with the foremost leaders in the field. Hollis Taggart has also worked with more than thirty museums and institutions to produce scholarly catalogues. In addition, Hollis Taggart has sponsored three catalogue raisonné projects. The first was the two-volume catalogue raisonné of Pennsylvania Impressionist Daniel Garber, which was published in 2006 and includes over 1,500 entries. In 2000, the gallery launched the Frederick Carl Frieseke catalogue raisonné, which is currently being compiled by the artist’s grandson. Most recently, the gallery has undertaken the compilation of the catalogue raisonné of Surrealist artist Kay Sage, in partnership with Mark Kelman and Sage scholar Stephen Robeson Miller. In the summer of 2015, Hollis Taggart opened its first space in Chelsea, moving from the Upper East Side where it had been operating since its inception. In fall 2018, Hollis Taggart will move to the street-level space at 521 W. 26th Street and open a private viewing and storage annex across the street, fully consolidating its operations in Chelsea. Together, the spaces provide Hollis Taggart with nearly 4,000-square-feet to host exhibitions and engage clients with select works of art in its inventory, while improving ease of access between its locations. Today, the gallery’s program has grown to encompass contemporary practitioners, as a vital component to art historical discourse. It also continues to show significant works of historic American art, with a particular focus on the Post-War era. These two intersecting threads offer Hollis Taggart’s audiences and clients a dynamic and diverse set of offerings. As the gallery looks to the future, fostering scholarship and dialogue on American art through time remains core to its work with artists, scholars, and curators. In addition to its public program, the gallery also advises private collectors, corporations, and museums on acquisitions and assists its clients in the development of their personal collections. Hollis Taggart welcomes all inquiries from collectors who may wish to sell or consign works of art or estates. The gallery can also provide appraisal services.