The gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition “Will Barnet: 1950s Works On Paper,” which opens Wednesday, April 20, 5:30 – 7:30 pm and will remain on view through May 27th. The exhibition will include 35 works on paper spanning from 1953-1960 and one painting from 1960. These colorful abstractions on paper are a fresh take on Barnet’s signature style. Many of these works were discovered in the artist's studio after his death and have not been previously exhibited. Using paper remnants such as envelopes and stationery often addressed to the artist, Barnet creates a diverse group of compositions seeded by the architecture of the existing printed matter. These pieces also represent Barnet’s Indian Space period, which was based upon the artist’s study of Native American ideas and designs that integrated organic and geometric pictograph forms within a flat, seamless space.
Will Barnet moved to New York in 1931 to enroll at the Art Students League and pursue a life as an artist. There he studied with Stuart Davis, Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, among others. During this formative period Barnet supported himself as a master printmaker and teacher, enabling his early, lasting connection to the New York scene. These early, strong and varying influences set the stage for Barnet’s long career and established his equal interest in and exploration of both representation and abstraction, each of which were dominant in different periods of his work. In 2011, Bruce Weber wrote in the National Academy Museum exhibition catalogue Will Barnet at 100:
For some eight decades, Will Barnet has made outstanding contributions to American art as a painter, printmaker, and teacher. In the course of a long, virtually unparalleled career, he has always taken a vigorously individual route, advancing to the pulse of his own aesthetic and philosophical concerns. He has traveled that road so rarely traveled, moving fluidly between abstraction and representation. Barnet has followed the passions of his own beliefs, even when this has not only meant going against the grain of prevailing movements in American art, but even contrary to the directions by which he established his own reputation.
Also in 2011, Barnet was awarded the National Medal of Arts in a White House ceremony by President Obama, who noted that “his nuanced and graceful depictions of family and personal scenes, for which he is best known, are meticulously constructed of flat planes that reveal a lifelong exploration of abstraction, expressionism and geometry.”