At Cheim & Read, Louise Fishman Puts a Feminist Stamp on Abstract Expressionism
The painter revisits her abstract compositions.
Louise Fishman is one of those painters who defies categorization. She’s often described as a (small-caps) abstract expressionist due to her stylistic approach, but while the paintings in her ongoing show at Cheim & Read certainly fit the AbEx formula, the works—and Fishman herself—have greater depth than meets the eye.
Made between 2016 and 2017, Fishman’s new paintings are based on loosely defined grids that push the boundaries of her spontaneous, improvised abstraction. The painterly mixed-media compositions appear very gestural and physical. Evidence of Fishman’s hand is easily recognizable by the troweled application of the paint on the canvas.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Fishman was an active participant in the feminist and gay rights movements, causes that led her to abandon painting in favor of sculptural and material investigations following the realization that her influences came almost exclusively from male artists. Her 1973 return to painting was marked by her seminal “Angry Women” series, designed to confront the male-dominated art world through canvases bearing a feminist viewpoint.
Her aim was to reinvigorate the medium of painting—which at that time had been declared dead—through the addition of a strong female perspective. This new series of works, while abstract, shows Fishman exploring her visual vocabulary with tremendous confidence.
“My intention, always, was to not repeat a painting, was to not repeat aspects of paintings,” Fishman said in a statement featured in the show press release. “My intention in painting is to keep discovering and to keep changing.” That is the hallmark of Fishman’s work: her ability to capture, through classical abstraction, the joy of reinvention.
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