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David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street presents Alice Neel - Drawings and Watercolors 1927-1978 || Palermo - Works 1973-1976

Archive | Information & News

19 Feb 2015 to 18 Apr 2015
Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM
Monday by appointment
David Zwirner
537 West 20th Street
New York, NY
New York
North America
T: +1 212 517 8677
F: +1 212 517 8959

Alice and José, 1938
Pastel on paper 11 3/4 x 9 inches (29.8 x 22.9 cm)
The Estate of Alice Neel

Artists in this exhibition: Alice Neel, Palermo

Alice Neel Drawings and Watercolors 1927-1978

February 19 - April 18, 2015
Opening reception: Thursday, February 19, 6 – 8 PM
Press preview with Jeremy Lewison, advisor to The Estate of Alice Neel: 5 PM

David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of drawings and watercolors by Alice Neel (1900–1984). On view at 537 West 20th Street in New York, the works are selected from throughout her career and span five decades. A fully illustrated catalogue by David Zwirner Books, featuring essays by the independent curator and writer Jeremy Lewison and the award-winning novelist Claire Messud, is published to coincide with the show.

Drawing was a fundamental, stand-alone component of Neel’s practice, persistently pursued alongside painting, for which she is primarily known. As a medium, it enabled her to capture the immediacy of her visual experience—whether in front of her sitters or on the city streets—while also affording her a greater sense of experimentation and informality. As an exercise, it frequently made its way into her canvases in the form of outlines and delicately sketched backgrounds.

Neel chose the subjects for both her paintings and drawings from her family, friends, and a broad variety of fellow New Yorkers: writers, poets, artists, students, textile salesmen, cabaret singers, and homeless bohemians. Through her penetrative, forthright, and at times humorous touch, her work subtly engaged with political and social issues, including gender, racial inequality, and labor struggles. Not initially intended for public view, her drawings reveal a more private and intimate nature than her paintings and as such reflect her deep sensitivity to these subjects. Yet they are far from sentimental and she readily stripped her sitters of their masks, foregrounding rather the incongruous, the awkward, and, at times, the comical—Neel was a self-proclaimed admirer of Honoré Daumier. As Jeremy Lewison notes in his essay for the accompanying catalogue, “Unlike many of her social realist contemporaries…Neel skillfully avoided lachrymose sentiment and political hysteria….She could always find a way to get under the skin, to penetrate through to the psychological strengths and frailties of her sitters. Neel took an interest in the human condition and was as much a recorder of the contemporary American people as the celebrated photographers of the era, Walker Evans, Berenice Abbott, Dorothea Lange, Robert Frank, and Helen Levitt.”1

The exhibition provides an illuminating overview of the variety of themes and styles employed by Neel over the course of her career. While many of her earliest works on paper, along with paintings, were destroyed in rage by a former lover in 1934, those that survived testify to the influence of German artists of the period. A set of monochromatic illustrations to The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky from the late 1930s incorporate a greater sense of narrative than many of Neel’s other compositions and show the actors at various key stages of the existential drama; her own life is referenced in often richly colored, quotidian scenes depicting herself in the company of her lovers. The single portrait occurs more frequently from the 1940s and from hence on regularly include her children Richard and Hartley, and their subsequent families. In the 1960s and 1970s, her line appears more precise and detailed and the palette more monochrome. Yet Neel’s profound commitment to her subjects and to her art remains consistent over the decades, and although the appearance of many of her sitters change over the years, there is a timeless quality to the works. As Claire Messud notes in her reflections on the artist in the exhibition catalogue, “The complex emotions Neel evokes in her art are nothing less than the contradictions of life itself.”2

Alice Neel was born in 1900 in Merion Square, Pennsylvania, and died in 1984 in New York. In 1921, she enrolled in the fine art program at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design) and graduated in 1925.

Since 2008, The Estate of Alice Neel has been represented by David Zwirner, where her work was presented in 2009 in a critically acclaimed, two-venue solo exhibition, Alice Neel: Selected Works and Alice Neel: Nudes of the 1930s (on view at Zwirner & Wirth, New York). In 2012, Alice Neel: Late Portraits & Still Lifes marked the second gallery solo show at David Zwirner, New York.

Although she showed sporadically early in her career, from the 1960s onwards her work was exhibited widely in the United States. In 1971, a comprehensive solo exhibition of Neel’s paintings was held at her alma mater Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia. In 1974, she had her first retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. It was shortly followed by a large-scale presentation of eighty-three paintings in 1975 at the Georgia Museum of Art, The University of Georgia, Athens. In 1978, the Graham Gallery, New York organized the first retrospective dedicated to the artist’s works on paper. In 1979, a survey of her paintings was co-hosted by the University of Bridgeport and The Silvermine Guild of Artists in Connecticut.

To celebrate the centenary of the artist’s birth, the Philadelphia Museum of Art organized a solo exhibition of Neel’s work, which debuted in 2000 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, before traveling to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, amongst other venues. More recent posthumous solo shows include Alice Neel: Collector of Souls, Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2008) and Alice Neel: Family, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2011). In 2010, Alice Neel: Painted Truths, which thematically surveyed over sixty paintings spanning fifty-five years, received wide critical acclaim. It was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in Texas and traveled to the Whitechapel Gallery, London and Moderna Museet Malmö, Sweden. In 2013, a major presentation of the artist’s watercolors and drawings, Alice Neel: Intimate Relations, was on view at Nordiska Akvarellmuseet in Skärhamn, Sweden.

Work by the artist is represented in permanent collections that include The Art Institute of Chicago; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Tate, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

1Jeremy Lewison, “Intimate Relations: The Drawings of Alice Neel,” in Alice Neel: Drawings and Watercolors 1927–1978. Exh. cat. (New York: David Zwirner Books, 2015), p. 8.

2Claire Messud, “‘To Be the Painting and the Painter’: Reflections on Alice Neel,” in Ibid., p. 92. 


Palermo Works 1973-1976

February 26 - April 11, 2015
Press preview: Thursday, February 26, 10 AM

David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of works by German artist Palermo (1943-1977) at the gallery’s 537 West 20th Street location. The exhibition, organized in collaboration with the Palermo Archive, will feature a selection of rarely shown paintings, objects, and large-scale drawings made by the artist between 1973 and 1976.

Although often associated with particular twentieth century art historical practices and discourses—including abstraction, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art—Palermo’s diverse body of work defies easy classification. Throughout his brief and influential career, Palermo executed paintings, “objects,” installations, wall drawings, and works on paper that addressed the contextual and semantic issues at stake in the construction, exhibition, and reception of works of art. His handling of form, color, and composition comprises a complex and experimental investigation of aesthetic concepts and of the semiotic possibilities of visual language.

The exhibition will include significant examples of the artist’s objects, a self-coined category of work comprised of three-dimensional forms that hang or lean on a wall and seem to simultaneously occupy the realms of both painting and sculpture. Among these works is Objekt mit Wasserwage (Object with Spirit Level), 1969-1973, a shaped canvas that incorporates a leveling tool, thereby physically referring to the construction and installation of the artist’s work, while also pointing to the surrounding architectural and exhibition context. Also on view will be a selection of Palermo’s “Metallbilder,” or “Metal Pictures,” begun by the artist in late 1973. Executed in acrylic on thin sheets of aluminum or steel, these paintings explore the tensions and contrasts between material and color; surface and depth; and signification and abstraction; thus exemplifying his ongoing experimentation with the symbolic and formal possibilities of composition and color. The exhibition will also present an installation of large-scale works on paper from 1974. These subtly rendered drawings explore systematically related arrangements of parallelograms and will be presented together for the first time since they were originally installed at Heiner Friedrich, New York in 1974.

(Blinky) Palermo was born Peter Schwarze in Leipzig, Germany in 1943 and was adopted and raised under the name Peter Heisterkamp. He changed his name to Palermo, taking the pseudonym from the American boxing promoter Blinky Palermo (“Blinky” later became his nickname; Palermo was his chosen artist name). In the 1960s, he studied under Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Palermo died in 1977 at the age of 34 while traveling in the Maldives.

Since his first solo exhibition in 1966 at Galerie Friedrich & Dahlem, Munich, Palermo’s work has been included in numerous important exhibitions in Europe and the United States at such institutions as the Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal (1968); Hamburger Kunstverein (1973); Städtisches Kunstmuseum, Bonn (1975); São Paulo Biennial (1975); Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1986); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1986); Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1987); Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (1988); The Menil Collection, Houston (1989); Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig (1993); Kunstmuseum Bonn (1994); MACBA Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; and the Serpentine Gallery, London (both 2002-03).

More recently, his work was shown in a traveling retrospective exhibition organized by the Dia Art Foundation, New York and the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard), Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The exhibition itinerary included the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2010-11); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2011); and Dia:Beacon/CCS Bard (2011). The Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Münster, Germany and the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland recently co-organized a traveling exhibition devoted to the artist’s work titled Palermo: who knows the beginning and who knows the end? (2011). In 2013, David Zwirner mounted an exhibition of the artist’s late drawings in New York; the accompanying catalogue included new scholarship by Christine Mehring (University of Chicago) and Christoph Schreier (Kunstmuseum Bonn).

For all press inquiries and to RSVP to the February 26 press preview, contact
Kim Donica +1 212 727 2070

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