New York City’s Berry Campbell Gallery is celebrating the work of abstract artist Yvonne Thomas in an upcoming exhibition titled Windows and Variations: Paintings from 1963 – 1965.
Thomas was born in Nice, France, in 1913, and arrived with her family in the United States in 1925. After first settling in Boston, the family moved to New York, where Thomas studied briefly at Cooper Union. When her parents could not afford her tuition due to the Great Depression, she turned to commercial work, supporting herself as a fashion illustrator.
In 1963, a significant change occurred in the art of Yvonne Thomas. Whereas in the 1950s, she had let her paintings lead her in the ways they evolved, following their logic, she now took control of them through a more consistent and systematic approach. The works she produced concur with the ethos of the abstract art of the time. In the view that Abstract Expressionism had foreclosed the mental and preplanned methods that had been important in the art of the past, artists began to bring a conceptual ideas back into their works.
In her paintings from 1963 to 1965, Thomas chose as her method of inquiry a repeating pattern of footprint-like rectangles or elongated lozenges that float in loose rows against grounds that are similar in tone, or reveal related tonal modulations. The choice of a design that has a textile look to it may have derived from Thomas’s work during her early career as a fashion illustrator. Some of the works in this exhibition belong to a series called The Window, implying more of the process of looking and having a sense of distance than the direct gesturalism of Abstract Expressionism.
The paintings are also about the power of color. By emphasizing the unity of a work by the patterns that repeat across the entirety of a surface—even if they are not uniform—the images are meant to be read as totalities rather than compositions. It is thought that Thomas was drawing on her memories of her early years in France, as the paintings are reminiscent of the experience of the stained-glass windows in French cathedrals through which sunlight is transformed into spiritualized color. By limiting the colors in each of the paintings, Thomas makes color their subject, drawing the viewer into a consideration of how color is both associative and visceral.
The exhibition runs September 5 through October 5, 2019.
sources: berrycampbell, wikipedia