Pioneering American Abstract Expressionist Perle Fine Featured in London Exhibition

  • May 16, 2022 15:06

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© Perle Fine, Theme: Blue, 1948-49. Image Courtesy of Gazelli Art House, London

From May 20 to June, 25, 2022, Gazelli Art House in London will present a retrospective exhibition spanning the career of pioneering artist Perle Fine (1905-1988) – the first retrospective dedicated to the artist in the UK. Represented by the gallery, this will be Fine’s second exhibition with Gazelli Art House – and will encompass a range of historic works starting from the early 1940s to the late 1980s. The first show in the gallery that exhibited Fine’s work and introduced the artist to new audiences was the 9th St. Club group show in 2020, which showcased works by the iconic ‘Ninth Street Women’ – including Fine, Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner among others. Standing amongst her peers of the time, such as Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell, Fine made a name for herself in America’s emerging 1950s Abstract Art movement.

The varied body of works within the show will be A Timelessness #8 (1977), from the artist’s acclaimed Accordment series – a characterful acrylic and oil on linen work that depicts a subtle checked pattern against a soft mustard background. The show will also provide a rare chance to see Fine’s results from the 1950s and 60s. Covering the length of her whole career, the earliest of the works on display originates from 1945 (Study for Komposition), and Fine’s ability to work with mixed media will also be on show - such as a 1946 work which combines oil, sand and scraffito; along with a collage work from 1961. In contrast to Fine’s later works on canvas, the artist’s gouache and ink on paper works on display in the exhibition will highlight her affinity for working with bold colours and geometric forms. Fine’s mylar, gouache, graphite, chalk, and collage on paperwork Surrealist Dreams (1959), also on display in the show, outlines a darker, more monochrome-based approach from Fine’s portfolio. The exhibition will be accompanied by a gallery publication, further delving into these diverse works and a dedicated programme of talks.

Perle Fine. Undated. Records from Artist and Object files. A0009. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York

In her detailed biography Tranquil Power: The Art and Life of Perle Fine, author Kathleen Housley discussed Fine’s determination to maintain her studio practice in an unresponsive market and lacklustre critical  acknowledgement over her career. However, Fine’s work has seen a tremendous upturn in recent years - she was featured in the Women of Abstract Expressionism show at the Denver Art Museum (2016), in Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965 at the Grey Art Gallery (2017), and in Postwar Women at the Art Students League of New York (2019). Her retrospective exhibition, Tranquil Power: The Art of Perle Fine, took place at Hofstra College in 2009. Fine’s timely renaissance has come amid increased recognition of trailblazing female artists in Abstract Expressionism.

Perle Fine (1905 - 1988) grew up in Malden, Massachusetts, assisting her parents on their dairy farm. Along with any creative pursuits from her other siblings, Fine’s artistic endeavours were always encouraged by her parents. She spent her early adult life in New York City and spent summers in the bustling artist colony of Provincetown, Rhode Island. From an early age and over the course of her career, Fine was uncompromising in her ideals; she always fully trusted her artistic instincts – resulting in the production of works full of visual rhythms and abstract shapes.

Following an education in the School of Practical Art in Boston and the Grand Central Art School in New York City, and after completing various teaching roles at Cornell and Hofstra College - Fine explored the styles of Pointillism, Impressionism, and Cubism; leaving a lasting impression in a male-dominated practice, with an artistic legacy that lives on to this day.

After retiring from her teaching post at Hofstra in 1973, Fine devoted her time to her practice in her Greenwich Village studio and continued to add to her impeccable exhibition resumé, showing with the Betty Parsons Gallery and the Tanager Gallery, among others. She was also featured in the groundbreaking 9th Street show in 1951, along with many other group shows in New York which were of seminal importance to the Abstract Expressionist movement - including shows at the Whitney, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. By the late 70s, Fine was battling Alzheimer’s, though she continued to create art until her passing in 1988. After being majorly overlooked following her death, Fine’s work is receiving its overdue recognition by being featured in major forthcoming exhibitions in 2022/23.

Founded in 2010 by Mila Askarova, the Gazelli Art House in London brings a fresh perspective to Mayfair – through championing artists from all corners of the globe. More info:

Tags: american art

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