The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation inaugurates its exhibition space in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, with Milton Resnick Paintings 1937-1987, a fifty-year retrospective survey of Resnick’s paintings. Drawn largely from the Foundation’s collection and loans from private collections, the exhibition traces the artist’s transition from his early Abstract Expressionist works—including rarely- seen pieces from the 1940s and 50s—to the dense canvases of his maturity.
Resnick’s thickly impastoed works, some executed on a monumental scale, reflect a faith in the evocative powers of paint itself. Geoffrey Dorfman, Milton Resnick’s biographer and curator of the exhibition, observes: “His late, somber abstractions suggest an implacable will. But far from being obdurate or cold, they—in their near-infinite complexities of color and light—offer us a crepuscular mystical vision.” On his death in 2004, Roberta Smith wrote: “Mr. Resnick might qualify as the last Abstract Expressionist painter.”
The Foundation occupies a building that once served as Resnick’s studio; some of the pieces on display were painted here in the 1970s and 80s. Originally built as a tenement in 1890, the structure was converted to a synagogue in the early 20th century, and acquired by Resnick in 1976. Ryall Sheridan Architects oversaw an extensive renovation, preserving as much of the original atmosphere as possible, while modernizing the site for safe public access.
Resnick’s final studio, a small room on the third floor where he painted on paper in the last years of his life, has been meticulously restored and is on view by arrangement. After the opening show, a rotating selection of Milton Resnick’s works will remain on permanent view on the second floor, while the first and fourth floors will present a range of solo and group exhibitions.
Milton Resnick (1917-2004) was born in Ukraine and immigrated to New York City with his family in 1923. He grew up in Brooklyn, and entered the American Artists School in 1933. In the 1930s, he was part of the WPA artist project, and met Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, John Graham, and other downtown artists. Resnick served in the U.S. Army throughout World War II. After returning to New York in September 1945, Resnick began painting, cementing his historical position as a member of the first generation of American Abstract Expressionists. He was a founding member of the Artists’ Club of the 1950s.
Over his long career, Resnick painted “through” classic Abstract Expressionist action painting, to arrive at works that give the impression of all-over monochromatic fields, although in fact comprised of myriad hues. Through the 1970s and 1980s, he began to apply paint with increasing density, and he darkened his palette, resulting in canvases of subtle, almost topographical presence. In the last years of his life, Resnick made visionary figure paintings, alternating darkness with humor. He died in 2004. The artist’s estate is represented by Cheim & Read, New York.
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