Esphyr Slobodkina

Honoring the Life and Art of a Pioneer of American Abstraction

Levitator

Levitator

Year: 1950
Type: Painting

Catalog #: SF_0035

Current Location:
Lewallen Galleries

Exhibition History:

“The Life and Art of Esphyr Slobodkina,” organized by the Tufts University Art Gallery; Tisch Gallery, Tufts University January 16-March 29, 1992; Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Baruch College, City University of New York, November 5-December 15, 1992.

“Rediscovering Slobodkina: A Pioneer of American Abstraction,” Samuel P. Harn Art Museum, Gainesville, FL, Jun 16 – Sept 6, 2009; Naples Museum of Art, Naples, FL, Oct 1 – Dec 29, 2009; Sheldon Art Museum, Lincoln, NE, Jan 26 – Apr 18, 2010.

Dimensions:
25 x 35

Signature / Artist Notation:
Recto: Esphyr Slobodkina ’50

In this work, the grain of the underlying plywood emerges in areas where Slobodkina has scraped away the gesso coating. This technique was inspired by the paintings of John Ferren, which she saw at the Museum of Living Art. She recalls: “I was rather intrigued by his use of plaster of Paris in his smaller works which were really more like bas-reliefs than anything else, since most of the effects were obtained by scooping out and scratching lines on the plaster…when I myself got involved with gesso, which after all is a form of plaster, I remembered his scratched out lines, and after a bit of experimentation, adopted them to my needs. Sometimes I used plywood instead of Masonite, which allowed me to scoop out whole areas of gesso, adding beautifully grained natural wood to the arsenal of my interesting surfaces (Notes for a Biographer, Volume II, p.476).” She also used this technique for “Tamara Abstraction (c.1945-50).

Thematically, “The Levitator,” along with “Turboprop Skyshark,” reflects Slobodkina’s interest in mechanical objects.

Painted at her Great Neck House. Slobodkina considers this work the culmination of her style.