Hood Quarterly, autumn 2013
Michael R. Taylor, Director
The Hood recently acquired a major painting by Louise Fishman, one of the most admired and influential abstract artists of her generation. Born in Philadelphia on January 14, 1939, Fishman attended the Philadelphia College of Art between 1956 and 1957 before completing her undergraduate education at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She later completed a BFA and BS at the Tyler School of Art in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and in 1965 received an MFA from the University of Illinois, Champaign. Also in 1965 she moved to New York, where she has lived and worked ever since. Her early work consisted of grid-based abstract paintings inspired by the work of Agnes Martin, who was a great friend and mentor to the artist. However, in the late 1960s her paintings began to be informed by the burgeoning feminist and lesbian and gay rights movements (Fishman came out as a lesbian in 1957, at the age of eighteen) and to reflect her anger and frustration at the lack of critical attention given to women artists in comparison to their male counterparts. In 1973, she completed thirty text-based "portraits" of her women friends and heroes, including Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, and Gertrude Stein, which are known today as the Angry Women paintings. Fishman returned to abstract painting shortly thereafter and continues to make large-scale gestural paintings to this day.
The 2005 painting Green's Apogee was completed shortly before Fishman's stay at Dartmouth College as an artist-in-residence. Rendered in powerful, sweeping green and black brushstrokes that reflect the pleasures and physical energies of action painting, this towering work is one of the artist's largest and most successful abstract canvases. Its dense network of rugged, monumental forms, which Fishman constructed through an intuitive process of painting, scraping, sanding, and painting again, recalls the enormous scaffolded structures of Franz Kline's abstract expressionist paintings. Fishman has also connected Green's Apogee to the bravura paint handling found in the work of Chaïm Soutine, another artist hero. "Soutine taught me the possibility of the freedom of no restrictions in making paintings," Fishman recalled in March 2006, "and to still make paintings that were an expression of my deepest spirit, ambitions, failures, the despair of humiliation, and the possibility of grandeur."
Green's Apogee will be included in an upcoming exhibition titled In Residence: Contemporary Artists at Dartmouth, which will be on view at the Hood from January 18 through July 6, 2014. Organized in collaboration with the Studio Art Department, this major exhibition will explore the history and legacy of the Artist-in-Residence Program at Dartmouth and will bring together works of art by more than eighty artists who have participated in this acclaimed international program since it began in 1931, including Walker Evans, Donald Judd, Magdalene Odundo, José Clemente Orozco, Robert Rauschenberg, George Rickey, Alison Saar, Amy Sillman, Frank Stella, and Jack Tworkov. Fishman, who came to campus in the spring of 2007, is one of a number of women artists who have participated in the Artist-in-Residence Program, beginning with the sculptor Laura Ziegler, who came to campus in the summer of 1974, just two years after Dartmouth's transformation to coeducation. She was followed by such notable women artists as Laylah Ali, Rosemarie Beck, Ambreen Butt, Susanna Coffey, Lois Dodd, Jane Hammond, Carol Hepper, Luise Kaish, Jin Soo Kim, Elizabeth King, Beryl Korot, Ying Li, Won Ju Lim, Linda Matalon, Ruth Miller, Sana Musasama, Olivia Parker, Judy Pfaff, Marjetica Potrč, and Rebecca Purdum. We are delighted to add Louise Fishman's Green's Apogee to the permanent collection of the Hood, where it will be displayed, studied, and enjoyed for generations to come.