Unstraight Lines: Louise Fishman (1939-2021)
Artforum International Article by Amy Sillman
THERE WAS AN EMAIL in my inbox on July 26 from Louise Fishman’s wife, Ingrid Nyeboe, with the brief, startling headline “Louise died.” Inside, I was cc’d on a sad notification: Louise had passed away the night before from complications of an illness. And with that, Louise was no more and, as the Jews say, may her memory be for a blessing.
What now stood in her place was the corpus of her work, a body of enormous heft. Louise’s very presence had always been like a force of nature to me anyway. I’d known her since the 1970s, though not that well. She was never a hangout buddy but an elder stateswoman, a serious-ass painter, a living link to the New York School stretching back to painting giants like Mitchell, Guston, and de Kooning and forward to all us wannabe-serious painters who were still in the grip of that kind of work. Sometimes I would see her in Chelsea walking around in utilitarian pants and sporty wraparound shades—and Louise was literally sporty. As a girl, she had wanted to be a professional ballplayer, and several writers since have made the connection between sports fields and Louise’s canvases, both of which are delineated rectangles of activity in which coded sets of gestures are pitched, whether baseball pitches or paint strokes. Anyway, when I saw her, I would not interrupt her because she was deep in thought—about what, who knows—but as de Kooning once said of someone, she had an abstract look on her face.