Intimate Scale: The Art of Addie Herder

Event  |  Reviews  |  Comments
Pari-March, 1967 Mixed Media Collage Construction 14 X 11 3/8 Inches © Courtesy of the artist & Pavel Zoubok Gallery
Intimate Scale: The Art of Addie Herder

531 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10011
May 24th, 2012 - June 23rd, 2012

Tue-Sat 10-6
collage mixed-media


PAVEL ZOUBOK GALLERY invites you to a retrospective exhibition of collage constructions by ADDIE HERDER (1920-2009), whose intricately wrought cityscapes and “machines” explore the language of modernity on a decidedly intimate scale. This exhibition celebrates her life with works spanning some four decades and is accompanied by a full-color catalogue. Please join us at the opening reception on Thursday, May 24, 2012 from 6-8pm or during the run of the exhibition, which continues through June 23.

ADDIE HERDER was widely known as an artist’s artist, and while many of her contemporaries were filling enormous canvases with the barest minimum of pictorial adornment, Herder went her own way creating complex worlds and imaginary “machines” in spaces often no larger than twelve by ten inches. Like Max Ernst, Joseph Cornell and Kurt Schwitters before her, Herder used all manner of ephemera to create miniature architectural facades with a theatrical sense of atmosphere and depth. The late critic John Russell declared that her small spaces had all of the pictorial interest of a Giorgione. He wrote enthusiastically in the New York Times: “There is something addictive about the collage constructions of Addie Herder. Once under their spell, we can’t see enough of them.”

Trained at the Tyler School in Philadelphia during the late 1930s, Herder moved to New York in 1946 with her then-husband Milton Herder where the two eventually opened a successful commercial art business. They lived and worked in a large studio in the Sherwood building on West 57th Street, a home to artists and writers since the nineteenth century. The Herder studio became a “hangout” for struggling young artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and a young clerk at the Marlborough Bookstore down the street named Jasper Johns. The advertising designs for products such as Jell-O, at which the Herders excelled, would become an intrinsic part of the Pop Art movement the others launched a decade later. 

When the legendary Sherwood Studios was demolished and its tenants evicted, it was the end of an era for Herder. She separated from her husband and moved to Paris, finding new inspiration in the minute detritus of an old civilization. She became part of a vibrant scene of artists, composers and writers that included the legendary African-American painter Beauford Delaney, and writers Richard Wright, James Baldwin and James Jones. Moving in their own orbit but tied to this circle were the well-born George Plimpton, Nelson Aldrich and Peter Mathiessen who had the wherewithal and taste to found The Paris Review. Baldwin summed up the whole scene. “All those cats were wandering around looking for Hemingway, and Hemingway didn’t live there anymore.” While in Paris, Herder showed her work but adamantly refused to sell anything. They were too peripatetic and her work demanded a permanent home.  

In 1972, Herder packed her works and returned to America, where she was soon sought after by collectors Roy Neuberger and Joseph Hirshorn, who bought several pieces for his private collection and for his nascent museum in Washington, D. C. Neuberger went him one better. He not only bought work, but he gave Herder a one woman show at his museum in Purchase, New York.  Over the next few decades, Herder enjoyed a series of successful exhibitions first at the Gruenbaum Gallery and then at the Davis & Langdale Gallery. During the last decade of her life, Herder returned to her native Philadelphia where she worked intermittently. Her work has been represented by Pavel Zoubok Gallery since 2001. Following a long and courageous battle with emphysema Addie Herder died quietly at her Philadephia home on August 11, 2009. 

The esteemed art historian Jack Flam summed up Addie Herder’s art, writing: “Every passionate gesture of belief is debunked at the same time it is articulated yet without any loss of conviction…. This paradoxical heart of experience is captured in the miniaturized vastness that is the genius of Addie’s work.”

Passages drawn from Alfred Allan Lewis’ catalogue essay