Esphyr Slobodkina

Honoring the Life and Art of a Pioneer of American Abstraction

Tamara Abstraction

Tamara Abstraction

Year: 1945-50
Type: Painting

Catalog #: SF_0018

Current Location:
Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Exhibition History:

Tufts show, 1992
“Rediscovering Slobodkina: A Pioneer of American Abstraction,” Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY, Jan 10 – Mar 22, 2009; 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.

19 1/2 x 41 1/2

Painting Tamara Abstraction

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 “Levitator” (c.1950).This painting was titled in honor of Slobodkina’s sister and best friend, Tamara Schildkraut. “Originating as an abstracted still life with forms suggestive of a pitcher and musical instrument, this picture became a collage with the addition of strings and mica circles derived from some obscure electrical apparatus” (The Life and Art of Esphyr Slobodkina, Tufts University Art Gallery, 1992, p.27).