Sunshine and shadow play amid the trees
In bosky groves, while from the vivid sky
The sun’s gold arrows fleck the fields at noon,
Where weary cattle to their slumber hie.
How sweet the music of the purling rill,
Trickling adown the grassy hill!
While dreamy fancies come to give repose
When the first star of evening glows.
—“July” by Henrietta Cordelia Ray (1852–1916)
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is pleased to present Summer At Its Best, a group exhibition that celebrates the halcyon days, sultry nights, and scenic vistas of our most beloved season. On view from June 24 through August 5, 2022, Summer At Its Best traces nearly a century of American painting, sculpture, and works on paper, providing visions of the season’s fleeting passions, leisurely idylls, and chromatic richness. The exhibition borrows its title from a 1968 painting by Alma Thomas included in the show that encapsulates the spirit of the presentation in both form and concept: arraying daubs of saturated, warm colors in rhythmic sequences across the canvas, Thomas masterfully captures the flitting light and vivid palette of summer’s landscape.
Summer At Its Best offers an abundance of juxtapositions that reveal unexpected harmonies in the eclectic selection of works on view. Expressionistic gestures inspired by the rise and fall of the sea are the prevailing formal and thematic concerns of ceramicist Toshiko Takaezu’s Ocean’s Edge vessels from the early 1990s, as well as Beauford Delaney’s fauvist portrayal of a day spent sailing off the coast of Maine (1951) and Norman Lewis’ masterful abstraction of the sea’s upheavals, Seachange (1976). A standout example of Delaney’s swirling, allover paintings of pure light is situated in conversation with a Joseph Cornell box of the late 1950s, where an anthropomorphic sun excerpted from the compulsive collector’s library of printed matter beams down over a collage dedicated to the souvenirs of distant travelers. Other exhibition highlights include Heaven (1967) by Benny Andrews, a psychedelic scene of an otherworldly paradise that anticipates the fantastical landscape of his monumental 1975 collage painting Utopia, the sixth and final work in his landmark Bicentennial Series. Reginald Marsh’s depiction of Coney Island’s clamorous midsummer crowds presents a roiling, baroque scene of urban leisure, which is offset by more intimately-scaled seaside works by Milton Avery, James Daugherty, Dorothy Dehner, Louis Elshemius, Robert Gwathmey, and Fairfield Porter.
Masters of abstraction Sam Gilliam, Jack Tworkov, Michael Goldberg, Mark Tobey, and William T. Williams provide vision-encompassing canvasses of high-keyed color and exacting materiality, while a “bush” bronze by Harry Bertoia (1915–1978) and a verdant, hedge-sized Norman Bluhm (1921–1999) painting provide overtones of flourishing botanical life. Bask in the sunshine of solar-themed works by American Surrealists Boris Margo and David Hare (1917–1992), or contemplate the mathematically precise concretism of a major diptych by Alfred Jensen (1903–1981), Twin Children of The Sun #14 (1974). Emphasizing the profusion of life brought about by its titular season, the exhibition is bookended with floral-themed works by Blanche Lazzell, Charles Ethan Porter, William Zorach, and—in her singularly inventive way—Yayoi Kusama.
Five artists included in Summer At Its Best are the subject of major institutional exhibitions open across the country this summer. Bob Thompson: This House Is Mine is on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia through September 11, 2022, and has received resounding critical acclaim at each of its previous venues. Originally curated by Diana Tuite for the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine, the exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue published in association with Yale University Press.