The revival of Ethel Schwabacher is just around the corner? Take a peek inside a nearly sold-out exhibition of rarely seen Abstract Expressionist works
It’s been 30 years since Ethel Schwabacher was a real solo exhibition in New York. But in the 1950s, she was at the forefront of the abstract expressionist movement, displaying vibrant canvases with bold colors, flowing brushstrokes, and even excerpts of poetry in exhibitions. Betty Parsons Gallery in New York.
“Ethel was also a poet, so she inserted her poetry into her paintings, which was way ahead of her time in the 1950s,” Christine Berry, co-founder of New York-based Berry Campbell Gallery, told Artnet News.
Now a late artist whose work is in the collections of institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. — is enjoying a well-deserved resurgence at Berry Campbell.
The Chelsea Gallery is almost completely sold out this weekend. The works are valued between $165,000 and $400,000, far exceeding the artist’s auction record of $56,250 set in 2020. Artnet Price Base– focuses on the artist’s work from the 1950s.
For decades, the Schwabacher estate has been represented Anita Shapolsky Galleryan elderly Upper East Side dealer who puts on about three gigs a year in his townhouse.
The last few years have been a moment of discovery for many other women in the Ab Ex movement, with the release of a well-known book about Mary Gabriel. Women of Ninth Streetand in the landmark 2016 Denver Art Museum show “Women of abstract expressionism“. But it seemed that Schwabacher – one of the 12 artists of the exhibition in Denver – could be left behind.
Enter Berry Campbell, who also represents the estates Judith Godwin And Perle Finetwo other women at a show in Denver.
When the dealers contacted the artist’s son, lawyer Christopher Schwabacher (who had represented Parsons for years), they were shocked, if not delighted, to find hundreds of paintings that hadn’t been seen in decades, carefully packaged in a warehouse. This included the centerpiece of the show, Prometheus, a 1959 canvas to be unrolled and stretched for the occasion.
“They all have Betty Parsons labels on the back,” Berry said. “It’s incredible.”
The artist continued to paint until her death in 1984, and dealers hope to achieve recognition for Schwabacher’s work with a series of exhibitions spanning her entire career.
“Initially we thought we would have to do a retrospective as no one knew who she was, but the paintings were so powerful,” added gallery co-founder Martha Campbell.
When Artnet News visited “Ethel Schwabacher: Woman in Nature (1950s paintings)“It’s been a busy day.
Christopher Schwabacher and his wife Hannelore stopped by to visit and the repairmen were there – a nearby construction site dropped an anvil on a gallery skylight, causing the window pane to shatter. Luckily no one was hurt and the paintings were not damaged.
Christopher Schwabacher, now 81, was unfazed by the incident and happily shared childhood memories of his mother painting, a widow who played classical music to drown out the noise of him playing with her sister Brenda Webster while she worked. The living room has been turned into an art studio.
“I have never seen so many tubes of paint. As children, we were fascinated by them,” Christopher Schwabacher told Artnet News. “When we could relax a little and not be so careful, it was when she took her brushes to the faucet in the pantry to wash them.”
Decades later, the artist’s son hopes it’s time for a reassessment of Schwabacher’s career, and he considers the skylight incident a good omen: “We’ve had a resounding success right here!”
See more paintings from the exhibition below.
Ethel Schwabacher, Steps of the Sun (1957). Contributed by Berry Campbell, New York.
“Ethel Schwabacher: Woman in Nature (1950s Paintings)” is on display at Berry Campbell, 524 West 26th Street, New York, NY from April 20 to May 26, 2023.
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