In 1964, art critic Clement Greenberg curated an exhibition by a title of his own creation, “Post-painterly Abstraction,” which originated at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition included most members of the group that would become the Washington Color School in the company of other artists who adopted an often punchy, yet minimalist aesthetic, like Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler and Sam Francis.
Not long after this initial showing in Los Angeles, the Washington Color School artists came together for the 1965 exhibition “Washington Color Painters” at the now defunct Washington Gallery of Modern Art. This group of six included Thomas Downing, Howard Mehring, Paul Reed, Gene Davis, Kenneth Noland, and Morris Louis. They displayed works of arresting visual prowess and rejected the overtly personalized and self-referential expressionism of the generation of abstract expressionists who preceded them.
Downing, Mehring and Reed, apart from Davis, Noland and Louis, synthesized the powers of color, geometry and space to produce work that aligned with the radical ethos of the 1960s. Their wholly unique perspectives propel the spirit of the Color School forward; yet stand apart from their contemporaries.
This exhibition examines the work of Thomas Downing, Howard Mehring and Paul Reed through eight paintings in vivid resonance with one another.
Thomas Downing (1928 - 1985) was born in Virginia and came to Washington DC in 1953. He studied under Kenneth Noland at Catholic University. His work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Whitney Museum, The Phillips Collection, the Kreeger Museum, and the North Carolina Art Museum, among others.
Howard Mehring (1931 -1978) was born in Washington DC and shared a studio with Paul Reed. His work is included in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.
Paul Reed (1919 – 2015) taught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design for nearly a decade. His work can be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.