ARTISTS OF THE JAMES GALLERY
An exhibition of modern paintings and drawings by the artists of mid-century Manhattan’s James Gallery will open on Friday 21 March 2014 at ACME Fine Art in Boston’s SoWa arts district. A reception will follow on Friday 4 April from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. A Gallery Talk by exhibition curators David Cowan and Myrna Harrison, who was one of the James Gallery artists, will be held on Saturday, 5 April at 2:00 p.m. The exhibition will be on view through Saturday 26 April 2014.
The James Gallery was one of the first of New York’s ground breaking artists’ cooperative galleries that were formed in the 1950s to showcase the avant-garde artwork from what has come to be called the New York School. The gallery’s first director was the artist James Gahagan who recalled in a 1977 interview, “The James Gallery …opened on September 14 1954 with a 12 member exhibit…. We were the only gallery at the time to include photographers in our regular roster. Twelve out of thirteen painters had studied with Hans Hofmann; most were to have their first one-person exhibition at the James.” The gallery was located in a loft on East 12th Street in Manhattan on the edge of what was to become a locus of co-operative galleries that were often referred to as the “Tenth Street Galleries.” The James Gallery was in business from the Autumn of 1954 through the Summer of 1962.
ACME Fine Art is fortunate to represent several of the artists associated with the James Gallery, including James Gahagan, Charles Littler, William Freed, Lillian Orlowsky, Dorothy Eisner, Haynes Ownby, and Myrna Harrison. Working with Gallery Director David Cowan, the James Gallery exhibition is being curated by Myrna Harrison, an artist who knew the James Gallery from the inside, and the historic gallery’s affiliated artists as friends and colleagues. In addition to artwork created by ACME Fine Art gallery artists, Harrison and Cowan have lined up an impressive array of works by other James Gallery artists including: Robert Henry, Earl Pierce, Tom Hannan, Robert La Hotan, Alice Hodges, Betty Bishop, Stan Freborg, and James and Nieves Billmyer. Where possible the artwork selected is from the period when it was –or might have been- shown at the James Gallery.
In an excerpt from the catalogue of an important 1977 group exhibition called Tenth Street Days (the Co-ops of the 50’s) James Gallery artist Lillian Orlowsky is quoted as saying, “It was a provocative period. There was a need for more permanent exhibition places to exhibit work that stemmed from the modern movement, so co-operatives developed, the James being one of the earliest founded. Critics came and reviewed members’ work; museum directors selected works for their permanent collections. The artists were involved in a continuous struggle and the public shared the experience with them.” This was that remarkable moment in time when abstract expressionism emerged as the preeminent movement in contemporary art, and became what art historians now acknowledge as America’s first truly original artistic movement. It was also an important moment in which – following the end of the W.P.A. and the Second World War – artists began to take hold of their own destinies by forming their own galleries. The paintings selected for this exhibition collectively provide a snapshot from that heady decade and a place known as the James Gallery.
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