Louise Fishman’s art has always been somewhat of an enigma. Fishman recently debuted her eighth solo show Cheim & Read gallery in Chelsea earlier this month. On first pass the show seems to be in line with the artist’s previous work, but there is much more than meets the eye.
This is the first solo show that Ms. Fishman has had in two years. Fishman’s paintings and drawings for the show which were created between 2016-17, and again, seem to defy a specific category. Working in the vein of expressionist painting, as well as the larger gestural works her art invokes, there is feeling of organized chaos that emits from her canvases. The works in this exhibition ranges quite a bit in terms of size. There is a physicality to Fishman’s work that can be seen in how she treats her surfaces. The pieces range in size from 4×6” to 96”. Of the 16 larger paintings on display, there is also an accompanying 16 smaller paintings in an adjoining room. The sizes of the work can overpower the viewer at times but add to the overall draw of the paintings.
There are a range of colors used in the paintings ranging from muted earth tones in blue and green to lighter pinks, reds, and turquoises that come in splotches and keep the eye moving. Fishman also employed for this show materials including oil, watercolor, egg tempera, colored pencil, ink and graphite. Fishman’s paintings create layers in interesting ways. While some painters might do this through physically adding more paint, charcoal etc. to the surfaces they are working on, Fishman does this through her brush strokes and the deliberate lines she is creating.
In addition to the 16 larger paintings on the display, this show also includes several smaller works on paper. They are shown alongside the large, unframed paintings and are curiously framed and grouped together. The pairing of the free formed, free floating paintings, next to these grouped together small works adds another dimension to the show.
Louise Fishman has remained one of the most prominent female figures in painting and in the art world at large for decades. At age 78, her work has continued to captivate and intrigue audiences with her wide-reaching brush strokes and varied color palette. Working alongside male Abstract Expressionist painters during the 1960s, Fishman began to distinguish herself from her counterparts early on. She came of age when men still crowded the art world, and she pushed her way through. She received her BFA and BS from the renowned Tyler School of Arts. And in 1965, Fishman completed her MFA at the University of Illinois.
In the early stages of her career, Ms. Fishman experimented with making grid based work. In the 1970s, she began to produce more abstract work which led her to be linked the Pattern painting movement. With the Feminist Movement gaining popularity at this time, Fishman began to infuse some aspects of this into her work. Fishman became increasingly interested in traditional female tasks such as knitting, sewing, crocheting, and began to create work that sought to mimic some of these sentiments. Fishman began to incorporate this large history and gestural movement within her work which over time helped to distinguish herself from other male artists of this era. This came through in the strokes of her canvas and the ways in which she sought to incorporate these traditional handicrafts.
The 1980s singled a bit of change in her work and many critics began to lump her within the Neo-Expressionist movement. She continued to create work but a 1988 trip to Europe would great change her process. The 1990s also ushered in a new approach to her work and she continued to experiment in the years that have followed.
In 2015, Fishman had her first retrospective at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York, tilted Louise Fishman: A Retrospective. The exhibition featured over 50 works of the artist from over the last several decades from 1968 to 2015 and attempted to chart out Fishman’s long-standing career. The retrospective from Neuberger will make its way to the Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.
Some of the sentiments of Fishman’s latest exhibition have also carried through from the retrospective. The works are wide ranging, playful at times, and there does seem to be experimentation occurring with different mediums and a level of playfulness. The works from the show are again towing a line and do engage elements of the Abstract movement. Fishman’s work has always sought to do more and this is achieved in this latest show.
This latest exhibition in some ways seeks to bridge Fishman’s past with the present. However, it also is pushing her work forward in a new direction. This show is signaling the next phase of Fishman’s career, and as her work continues to evolve, the art world and beyond is excited to see what it will bring.
Louise Fishman is on view at Cheim and Read until October 28th.