Friday, May 02, 2008
Art Chicago April 2008 - May Stevens print River Run
This picture print caught my friends eye. River Run, May Stevens (American, 1924) painted in 1994.
Jordan Karney, a Gallery Associate at MARY RYAN GALLERY (527 WEST 26TH STREET NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10001 -T.212.397.0669 -F.212.397.0766) was very helpful and informative. This reproduction doesnt do it justice. The gallery is selling a lithograth of this work from an the limited addition of 20. Please call the gallery if you are interested. The gallery offers other works by May Stevens.
thier website is at: http://www.maryryangallery.com/
The original is owned by the Cleveland Museum of Art - but it is not on display.The museum was in need of major improvements and repairs, and has recently began major renovation and expansion scheduled for completion in 2011.
A nice short Biography of May Stevens from AskART:
Feminist artist, poet, and writer May Stevens was born in 1924 in Quincy, Massachusetts. She became a painter of large-scale acrylic canvases that express her view on a variety of social issues, especially those dealing with racism and women's roles in society. Many of her works have symbolic figures "painted in a kind of brilliant hued, post-Pop realism." (Rubinstein 399). One of these figures, Big Daddy, is depicted with a bullet, phallic-shaped head and no shirt and is intended to represent imperialism, racism, and sexism.
Big Daddy Paper Doll
In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, her artwork seemed generally perceived by critics as propaganda, which in that era was not popular, and some critics described her symbolic figures demeaningly as caricatures. However, as women's issues and racial matters came increasingly to the fore of public thinking, her work has gained in popular appeal.
Stevens, May (American b. 1924)
Rosa Luxemburg, 1977
Xerography and photocollage with text, 28 3/8 x 24
Lucy Lippard Collection, 1999 http://www.museumofnewmexico.org/mfa/ideaphotographic/artists_stevens.html
In the 1950s and 1960s, her work involved racial themes and the civil rights movement, including freedom riders and Malcolm X in his casket. In the 1970s, her emphasis moved to feminism, and she often used photographs of her family in the creation of paintings, photomontages and murals. In Ordinary/Extraordinary, Stevens contrasts her mother with the revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, and this juxtaposition was similar to what she had done in the 1960s with her father and the issues of racism.
Stevens focus on these issues resulted from her childhood with a mother whom she perceived to be highly repressed by poverty and expectations in a male-dominated society. Her father was a shipyard worker whom she resented because of his bigotry and racism, especially his beliefs in Germanic superiority.
Stevens studied in Boston at the Massachusetts College of Art in 1946 and in New York City at the Art Students League in 1948. She married artist Rudolf Baranik, and the couple went to Paris where he was studying on a G.I. Bill. She studied briefly at the Academy Julian but quit with the burden of her pregnancy. However, she continued painting and exhibited her work at the Galerie Huit. She received favorable reviews, although a frequent theme of critics toward her work was their distaste for political subjects.
Returning to New York City in 1951, she taught for five years at the High School of Music and Art, and then taught in various places such as the School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design, while painting and working on exhibitions. She also founded the feminist journal, Heresies.
The Artist's Studio
Her first New York City exhibition was in 1955 at the Galerie Moderne, after a show in 1951 in Paris. She also showed at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, and the Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, Germany; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sao Paolo, Brazil; Indochina Arts Project; and the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, among many others. She received a New York State Council on the Arts Creative Public Service Award in graphics in 1974; a painting grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983; and a painting fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation in 1986.
Lucy Parsons poster
"We are the slaves of slaves. We are exploited more ruthlessly than men."
May Stevens' works are in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Brooklyn Museum, New York City, among others.
Jules and Nancy Heller, North American Women Artists of the 20th Century
Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein, American Women Artists
She believes that artists have the possibility to use their art not just for personal expression, but for social and political commentary and activism as well. Stevens has been particularly identified with the feminist art movement of the 1970s and 1980s, and much of her work critiques women's historical, political, and social conditions. Her recent creations have become increasingly lyrical and poetic and address themes of loss and absence.
There is a book about May Stevens with photographs of many of her works:
5.0 out of 5 stars
An exquisite, artbook presenting the life and works of artist, poet, teacher, and activist May Stevens, October 11, 2005
By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)
May Stevens is an exquisite, artbook presenting the life and works of artist, poet, teacher, and activist May Stevens, whose prestigious paintings are among the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, and many more.
Presenting a matter-of-fact "conversation" with May Stevens that reveals at length her history, motivations, styles, motifs, and other nuances side-by-side with a breathtaking gallery of black-and-white photographs and full-color plates, May Stevens thoroughly explores both the visual originality and the philosophical subtext of Stevens' art.
From a review of her work in 2003 from "Art In America"
May Stevens at Mary Ryan - New York - exhibition of the artist's work
Art in America, Oct, 2003 by Edward Leffingwell
May Stevens regards the cursive, richly allusive and nearly unreadable texts she incorporates into her paintings as waves of words or extensions of her palette. Her horizontally oriented acrylic landscape paintings are as much as 10 feet across. Without recourse to stretcher or frame, Stevens stapled them directly to the gallery walls. These five new paintings are a continuation of her series "Rivers and Other Bodies of Water," introduced in 2000, and similarly evoke the Impressionists in their contemplative enjoyment of abstracted light and color.
Charles River, Boston, MA
Mary Ryan Gallery
Relatively intimate at about 6 by 7 feet, Water's Edge, Charles River, Cambridge, MA (2002) seems moist with golden, fawn-dappled washes of muted blue, green and violet that quietly reflect and absorb the moment. Similar in scale, the deep, rippling blue-violet of a companion canvas, Water's Edge II, Charles River, Cambridge, MA (2003), admits like evidence of what lies below the surface of the Charles River, familiar from childhood years spent in Quincy, Mass., in the late 1920s. Both are immediate and fresh. The gold lettering inscribed on Water's Edge reflects the lyrics of a song by Chilean singer and songwriter Violeta Parra, "Gracias a la vida que me a dado tanto" (Thanks to life which has given me so much). The text floats in ripples along a trail of particulate matter--small pebbles, maybe crumbled earth--harvested from the site. The text for Water's Edge II, written in silver script, rolls in bands across the painting's upper edge and then recedes. It is excerpted from Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse: "and it silvered the rough waves a little more brightly, as daylight faded, and the blue went out of the sea...."
The 10-foot-wide Lagoon, Fort Cronkhite, Marin Headlands Sausalito, CA (2002) recovers voices recorded in an oral history of soldiers who once manned a military installation formerly at the site. A skull-like, rolling hill in the middle distance is reflected in the water and girdled by a road that dips to run along the water's edge. The soldiers' words are inscribed in the waters and printed in a legible strip added to the bottom of the canvas like a petition on a votive painting. In another variation on the confluence of script and palette, Stevens returns to Virginia Woolf. A cascade of silver writing rushes into the lilac-colored, watery expanse of Oxbow, Napa River, Napa, CA (2002) as though into the pond at Giverny. In Moments of Being, Woolf writes, and Stevens quotes: "The past only comes back when the present runs so smoothly that it is like the sliding surface of a deep river...." In such ways, Stevens revitalizes and literally restores narrative to the impressionistic landscape.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Brant Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston held a show of her works entitled "May Stevens: Images of Women Near and Far" in 1999
More than a dozen of artist May Stevens’s expansive paintings on canvas, many of them unstretched and unframed, hang as vast curtains, filling the Foster Gallery with haunting images of various incidents from contemporary history and her life. Stevens—a feminist and political activist—was born in Boston in 1924 and grew up in Quincy, where her mother was a homemaker and her father a pipe fitter. After graduating from the Massachusetts College of Art, Stevens started to paint on her own in 1947 and since then has lived in Paris and New York.
In her first major body of work—paintings made during the Vietnam War—Stevens explored the conflicting ambivalence she felt for her father and her resistance toward male authority. About 1976 Stevens embarked on Ordinary/Extraordinary—large-size paintings, collages, an artist’s book, and photostats that juxtapose images and words of Stevens’s mother, Alice, with those of the communist heroine Rosa Luxemburg. In a more recent series, which begins with Sea of Words, 1990–91, Stevens "contrasts memory to dream, loss to life, and language to the unwritten," as described in her own words.
Also included in "May Stevens: Images of Women Near and Far" is a selection of handsome drawings, as well as the MFA’s 1983 painting Go Gentle (above), which depicts the demise of Stevens’s mother. Go Gentle is one of the most appreciated paintings in the Museum’s collection and always strikes a sensitive chord within the viewer’s mind and vision.
Barbara Stern Shapiro is curator for special projects
Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
May Stevens, All-y all-y in-free
May Stevens, All-y all-y in-free, 1996. Mixed media collage/assemblage with hair, tobacco, mirror, purse, match sticks, etc. 33x41 inches.
Born in 1924 in Boston, Massachusetts.
The mysterious combination of elements in All-y all-y in-free provides clues to the story of a young child abuse victim. Stevens' process of collage invites chance into a composition, just as fate unpredictably alters one's life. Stevens believes that "...art is about breaking the rules, trying to surprise the sought after even as you are surprised by it."
Stevens comments on well-known male critics who essentialize women. She explains that once women achieve success they are labeled, and the field is diminished. She writes, "Think of the differing ways in which women's use of sewing or embroidery or crocheting in a painting or sculpture is evaluated compared to such appropriation by men...We do indeed have a long way to go, a number of definitions to rewrite--with our work, our art, our voices..."
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