November 27, 2021
Nov 18, 2021 — Jan 15, 2022
Featuring work by: Gertrude Abercrombie, David Byrd, Katelyn Eichwald, Reggie Burrows Hodges, Hughie Lee-Smith, Aubrey Levinthal, John Joseph Mitchell, George Tooker, John Wilde
Fleisher/Ollman is pleased to present two exhibitions exploring the art of David Byrd: one of Byrd’s drawings and the other featuring works that resonate and share affinities with the artist. David Byrd (b. 1926, Springfield, IL; d. 2013, Oxford, NY) worked in obscurity mainly in upstate New York and was active from the late 1940s until his death in 2013. His output was substantial and lifelong, but his first exhibition was not until the last year of his life. Byrd was a keen observer of the human condition and his rural environment, painting and drawing genre scenes and landscapes. His style channels the synthetic cubism of Amédée Ozenfant, with whom he briefly studied, by way of Magic Realism, a figurative yet fantastical current that paralleled the advent of Abstract Expressionism as Byrd came into his own as an artist in the 1950s. His strange and dejected drawings and paintings focus mainly on the community of Sidney Center, NY, where he lived during the last two decades of his life and where he was most productive. His subjects include auctioneers and attendees at country auctions, shoppers, street scenes, patrons in laundromats, and the occasional haunting composition based on fantasy. Most unsettling of all are Byrd’s depictions of daily life in the psychiatric ward of the Veterans’ Administration Medical Hospital, Montrose, NY, where Byrd was an orderly from 1958–1988.
In Resonance with David Byrd presents paintings and drawings by artists ranging from historical proponents of figurative modernism to living artists, all of whose work shares Byrdian sensibilities: an affinity for the forlorn, the belief in the profundity of the quotidian, the alienation of contemporary life, and an empathy for the marginalized. Getrude Abercrombie (b. 1909, Austin, TX; d. 1977, Chicago, IL), Hughie Lee-Smith (b. 1915, Eustis, FL; d. 1999, Albuquerque, NM), George Tooker (b. 1920, Brooklyn, NY; d. 2011, Hartland, VT), and John Wilde (b. 1919, Milwaukee, WI; d. 2006, Evansville, WI), while disparate in their approaches to painting, like Byrd, went against the grain of an ascendant abstraction and chose instead representation and figuration to explore the uncertainties and anxieties in the United States during World War II, the Cold War, and the social upheaval of the 1960s. All are members of essentially the same artistic generation, born between 1909–1920. The contemporary artists featured in the exhibition, Katelyn Eichwald (b. Chicago, IL, 1987; lives and works Chicago), Reggie Burrows Hodges (b. 1965, Compton, CA; lives and works Lewiston, ME), Aubrey Levinthal (b. 1986, Philadelphia, PA; lives and works Philadelphia), and John Joseph Mitchell (b. 1989, Sommers Point, NJ; lives and works Tuckahoe, NJ) not only speak to Byrd in the aforementioned manner, but also bring into relief the collective sense of isolation and despair that many of us have experienced during the pandemic.