Deborah Remington 1930-2010
Born in Haddonfield, New Jersey, in 1930, Deborah Remington was drawn to art at an early age. As a teenager, she attended classes at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. A descendant of the Western artist Frederic Remington, she embraced illusionistic painting, albeit with her own distinctive version of abstraction. She received her BFA in 1955 from the San Francisco Art Institute where she studied painting with Clyfford Still. By the time she graduated, she had become affiliated with the Bay Area’s burgeoning Beat scene. She was one of six painters and poets, and the only woman, who in 1954 founded the now legendary Six Gallery in San Francisco, where Allen Ginsberg first read his poem, ”Howl” in public on October 7, 1955.
After graduation, Remington spent two years in Japan studying calligraphy, then traveled throughout Southeast Asia and India, pursuing a lifelong interest in those cultures, while doing odd jobs to support herself – working as a cook, translator, and actress doing bit parts in television and B-grade movies – before returning to the United States to take up painting seriously. In 1962, she joined the Dilexi Gallery in San Francisco where she had several solo shows from 1962 to 1965.
In 1965, Remington moved to New York by which time she had gained renown for an aggressive and emblematic visual language influenced by abstract expressionism. Her signature canvases at this time featured machinelike shapes made of nested forms centered and floating on a ground. The frontal presentation of her imagery with its heightened theatricality and use of intense color juxtapositions, together with ambiguous, radiating light, are hallmarks of her work. In 1966, Remington became affiliated with the Bykert Gallery in New York, then the premier gallery for work by an emerging group of contemporary artists, including Brice Marden, Chuck Close and Dorothea Rockburne among others. She had four solo shows there from 1967 to 1974 before the gallery closed in 1975.
From 1967 to1968, Remington divided her time between New York and Paris, where she joined the Galerie Darthea Speyer. Her sold-out solo show was presented as the gallery’s inaugural exhibition in 1968, successfully introducing her work to European museums and collectors.
Throughout the 1970s, Remington exhibited nationally and internationally while refining her unique imagery. New spatial dialogues emerged in her painting and color took on a new intensity, influenced in part by her printmaking collaboration with the Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, NM, where she was invited to make lithographs. Remington produced fifteen editions there from 1973 to 1978.
A twenty-year retrospective exhibition (1963-1983) of the artist’s work opened at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, California, in 1983, traveling to the Oakland Museum of Art and several other venues. Following a four-year hiatus from exhibiting, Remington showed radically transformed imagery at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York in 1987 and at the Shoshana Wayne Gallery in Los Angeles the following year. The mechanistic, didactic flavor of her earlier work was by now replaced with looser, more expressionistic and organic qualities. Rigorously painted surfaces and all-over compositions dominate, lending greater subtlety and hints of paradox. She continued exploring this new vision and exhibiting her work throughout the 1990s, including an exhibition at Galerie Darthea Speyer in Paris in 1992.
In 2001, Remington produced a breakthrough painting titled “Eridan,” which she says finally united the free-flowing gestural energy of both her very early and later work with the more intense, emblematic, mechanistic, and sensuous aspects of the work by which she is best known. That same year, she exhibited new paintings and large scale drawings at the Mitchell Algus Gallery in New York. Also in 2001, an early lithograph from the Beat years was included in “Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionist Prints” at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts. The show traveled to other museums in the U.S. for several years and Remington’s piece was featured prominently on the cover of the catalogue. In 2002, she participated in “Parallels and Intersections,” a group exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art.
More recently, Remington’s work has been featured in several exhibitions focused on the art of the 1960s, including “Optical and Visionary Art Since the ‘60s,” which opened at the San Antonio Museum of Art in 2010 and traveled widely throughout the US. Her work was also included in “Bella Pacifica,” (2011), a four-gallery exhibition of Bay Area abstraction from 1946 to 1963 in New York.
Remington was the recipient of numerous grants and awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1984), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1979), and a Tamarind Fellowship (1973), among others. Interviews with the artist were recorded by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian, Washington, D.C (1972) and the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, Utah (2004). She was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1999 and received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant that same year. Her work is in private and public collections throughout Europe and the United States including:
Achenbach Foundation, San Francisco, CA.,
The Art Institute of Chicago, IL.
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris,
Centre d’art et de Culture,
Georges Pompidou, Paris,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Newport Harbor Art Museum/Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA,
Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CA.,
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, University of California, Berkeley, CA,
Phoenix Museum of Art, Phoenix, AR,
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA,
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
On Women in Art in the 50s
“Nobody made distinctions
because the women’s movement hadn’t come along yet. We weren’t really separated out from the men; you were just painters or sculptors or whatever you were.
There wasn’t that gender focus, which I think in many ways, when that came along, was very detrimental because it separated everybody out and it still has.
Anyway, I think our understanding of the commitment was just different, historically, than what happened with the women who came along later.”
© 2011-2013 Deborah Remington Charitable Trust for the Visual Arts All Rights Reserved