Angelo Ippolito, Color as Light
August 3, 2018 to September 16, 2018

Jon Ippolito

 

The New York School, the Tanager, and Maine

 

American artists coming of age in New York in 1950 had each other and not much else. Making a name for yourself in New York was hard even for hotshots like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, as the city's museums and midtown galleries still focused on European modernists. Not to be deterred, the artistic community centered on East Tenth Street took matters into their own hands, congregating at the Cedar Tavern, debating aesthetics at their own Artists' Club, and founding their own galleries. In the process, they shifted New York's artistic epicenter downtown, where it remained for the next 50 years.

Angelo Ippolito (1922-2001) played such a pivotal role in this historic scene that he became known as "Mr. Tenth Street." An emigrée from Italy at age nine, he produced a body of oils on canvas, works on paper, and assemblages renowned for their lyrical color, light, and compositional rigor. His paintings gained acclaim for their "brilliant color" (Fairfield Porter) and "joyous lyricism" (Dore Ashton), and his works are now featured in the collections of New York's MoMA, Whitney, and Metropolitan museums.

The first downtown artist gallery was born the day Ippolito and fellow artist Fred Mitchell spied a storefront they thought would make a good space to show art. Sculptor Bill King and the painters Lois Dodd and Charles Cajori joined the newly christened Tanager Gallery, and soon its members grew to include artists such as Sally Hazelet, Alex Katz and Philip Pearlstein. Its primary audience was other artists who were "simultaneously participants and spectators," and in its mission of showing underrecognized artists the Tanager was the first to exhibit figures who would later rise to prominence, from Alfred Jensen to Jasper Johns.

Two Tanager artists with Maine roots, Lois Dodd and Alex Katz, brought the lessons of abstract expressionism and pop art back to the state's vibrant art scene; their influence on art in Maine and the world can be felt to this day. As Katz put it, "When the Tanager started, none of the members had a gallery. By the time it closed, everyone had a gallery."