James Barron Art is pleased to announce an exhibition of important and previously unexhibited Janet Sobel works from the collection of her granddaughter, Ashley Shapiro. These paintings will be exhibited in conjunction with Shapiro’s own work, underscoring the continued influence of Janet Sobel’s artistic spirit within her family.
As a gesture of their relationship, Janet Sobel bestowed on her granddaughter a trove of works that Shapiro has held privately for over five decades. It is with great pride that we present a selection of these works to the Outsider Art Fair audience for the very first time.
Sobel immigrated from Ukraine to New York in 1908, and began painting in 1937, experimenting with mixed materials and drip painting. From 1943 through 1946, Sobel became a powerful presence in the New York art world, exhibiting at the Puma Gallery and at Peggy Guggenheim’s “Art of This Century,” where her recurring method of applying ‘drip’ would later be acknowledged as the beginnings of her transcendence from primitivism through Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism.
Sobel was championed by legendary art dealer and MoMA patron Sidney Janis, and later by William Rubin, Chief Curator of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA, who acquired two works in the permanent collection.
In her 2002 New York Times review of an exhibition at Gary Snyder Fine Art, Roberta Smith wrote, “Jackson Pollock may have broken the ice, in Willem de Kooning’s well-known phrase, but Janet Sobel definitely helped crack it.”
“We are proud to highlight the artistic legacy of Janet Sobel’s work in relation to the paintings of her granddaughter, Ashley Shapiro,” says gallery owner James Barron. “This is the story of how an untrained Ukranian immigrant created artworks that not only affected the course of American modern art, but continues to inspire successive generations within her family. At a time in which the cultural worth of immigrants is being questioned, this stands as testimony to the vibrancy and necessity of inclusion.”
As a child, Ashley Shapiro had a special relationship with her grandmother. She watched her paint, she heard her innermost dreams, and gained an intimacy and insight into her grandmother’s work. Drawing on this pivotal experience, Shapiro incorporates her grandmother’s vibrant use of color into her work, while maintaining her own unique voice. Like Janet Sobel, Shapiro began with a more figurative style, which quickly moved towards pure abstraction. Her canvases use color and gesture to communicate a range of emotions.
Since Sobel’s 1946 exhibition at “Art of this Century,” there have been only four solo shows of her work. This exhibition builds upon these previous exhibitions, including Janet Sobel: Revisiting the Drip, at James Barron Art / Kent / April – May 2016, and Janet Sobel / Norris Embry, at the Outsider Art Fair / 2017.
In our current revisionist environment, there has been an enormous revival of interest in Sobel’s work. She was included, alongside Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and others, in the comprehensive exhibition “Abstract Expressionism”, at the Royal Academy of Art, London. The exhibition then traveled to the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. In January, Sobel will be one of the key artists in the much-anticipated exhibition, “Outliers and American Vanguard Art,” curated by Lynne Cooke, Senior Curator, Special Projects in Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., opening on January 28, 2018. The exhibition will travel to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.