February 4 – April 1, 2017 

Opening Reception: Saturday, February 4, 2017, 6:00 - 8:00pm 

In 1964, art critic Clement Greenberg curated an exhibition by a title of his own creation, “Post-painterly Abstraction,” which originated at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition included most members of the group that would become the Washington Color School in the company of other artists who adopted an often punchy, yet minimalist aesthetic, like Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler and Sam Francis.

Not long after this initial showing in Los Angeles, the Washington Color School artists came together for the 1965 exhibition “Washington Color Painters” at the now defunct Washington Gallery of Modern Art. This group of six included Thomas Downing, Howard Mehring, Paul Reed, Gene Davis, Kenneth Noland, and Morris Louis. They displayed works of arresting visual prowess and rejected the overtly personalized and self-referential expressionism of the generation of abstract expressionists who preceded them.

Downing, Mehring and Reed, apart from Davis, Noland and Louis, synthesized the powers of color, geometry and space to produce work that aligned with the radical ethos of the 1960s. Their wholly unique perspectives propel the spirit of the Color School forward; yet stand apart from their contemporaries.

This exhibition examines the work of Thomas Downing, Howard Mehring and Paul Reed through eight paintings in vivid resonance with one another.

Image: Howard Mehring, Untitled, c. 1965-66, acrylic on canvas, 78 1/2” x 72” 

Early Alma Thomas
February 4 – April 1, 2017 

Opening Reception: Saturday, February 4, 2017, 6:00 - 8:00pm 

As a founding member of the Barnett-Aden Gallery in 1943, Thomas interacted with artists Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Lois Mailou Jones, and others. As the post-war era accelerated, Washington painters were quick to embrace the abstract expressionist movement. Thomas’s realist works pushed toward abstraction in the 1950s as she pursued an MFA in painting at American University, where she deepened the pursuit of a bold use of color and shape which defined her late career works.

Throughout the 1950s, Thomas appropriated the tools of Abstract Expressionism and characteristically made them her own, applying pigment in blocks of color to create compositions incorporating figures and still life elements, and later, densely layered abstractions of night skies and earthly subjects. Thomas’s adept use of minimal brushstrokes to render forms is in use among all the paintings, whether figure or object, night sky, or spring flowers.

“Etude in Brown – Saint Cecilia at the Organ, c. 1956-58” employs a highly graphic russet palette of reds and oranges, a diminutive figure anchoring the foreground. Dashes of white pigment represent the head and figure of Saint Cecilia, the scale and placement of the figure creating a cathedral of space filling the canvas.

The five paintings selected for this exhibition provide a timeline of Thomas’s shift from realism to abstraction in a few short years. This seldom-studied period firmly places Thomas in the center of modern American painting.

Image: Alma Thomas, Etude in Brown, St. Cecilia at the Organ, c. 1956-58, oil on linen, 44” x 28”