If a mark of success is survival, then Louise Fishman, at 70, is in prime form to make her mark in the annals of American abstraction as well as on canvas. Her show at Cheim and Reed, on through May 2, is a great chance to see the accomplished paintings of an artist who has matured over a long career.
As the press release for the exhibition states, “Now seventy years old, Fishman is from a generation of artists that includes Brice Marden (age 70), Mary Heilmann (age 68), Robert Mangold (age 71), Lynda Benglis (age 67), Bill Jensen (age 63), Pat Steir (age 68) and Robert Ryman (age 78).” All of whom just missed the beginnings of Abstract Expressionism and form a second generation who took abstraction different ways.
It’s old hat, if still well-warranted, to point out that Abstract Expressionism’s started out as a boys club that excluded some able female painters who were very much a part of the 1940s American art scene. Talented women were part of the Abstract Expressionism during its first years, but their careers differ from that of their male counterparts. Exemplia gratis: Elaine de Kooning. However, to understand Fishman’s current paintings as important because she is a female who does abstract paintings would take credit from the work itself and ignores the story of how she came to the gestural abstraction she is known for now.
Fishman was not always an abstract painter. An active feminist, her works in the 60s (grid paintings) and early 70s (traditional women’s work, like knitting) eventually led her to embrace a style of painting that was traditionally ‘masculine.’