Manny Farber

paintings 1967-1975

January 4 – 18, 2014

Van Doren Waxter is pleased to present Manny Farber: paintings from 1967 – 1975, a solo exhibition featuring early, often double-sided, abstract works on paper by the late Manny Farber (1917 – 2008). The exhibition will be on view from January 4 – 18, 2014.

These large-scale, process-driven paintings were constructed with Kraft paper that Farber meticulously layered to create a strong foundation for paint. Three foot squares of paper were joined with one inch seams and then cut into decisive shapes: lozenges, trapezoids, ovoids, etc. which he laid out on top of plastic sheeting. First he poured acrylic paint over the surface, dispersed it using rollers then flipped it over onto the plastic to dry - where after a preparatory soaking with water he would repeat this process on the other side using a deliberately different, yet complimentary color, this time adding a sheet of muslin that the paint would be poured over and later removed. The seams guided the water and paint and dictated how the two colors merged and interacted with each other. This method resulted in works where the surface and image became one.

In addition to this consuming, permeable painting process, Farber utilized linear underdrawings on the raw paper made with snapped chalk lines and dragging a paint-soaked piece of string over the painting’s surface to create pockets of movement that added a certain depth to the image’s surface. The resulting lyrical façade looks atmospheric, planetary, aqueous and geologic, with layers of color and the natural creasing of the paper. Crackled paint, veins, scars are all part of what makes up the “skin” of these paintings.

Farber distinguished himself from the color field school in his rejection of formalist, high-contrast, artificial colors. Instead, his sensibility leans toward color that looks like “it’s been through a lot: abraded, drowned, rising to the surface, floating. Light – sensitive color that has been subjected to natural phenomena.” The visual experience of these works invokes a cinematic quality by virtue of their precise, monumental planes of color and how the viewer scans over the image. The shaped paper works engage in a real dialogue with architectural space, presented by being nailed directly into the wall. Farber’s origins as a carpenter and sculptor are evident in the physical construction of these works, both in the making process and as objets d’art.

Manny Farber was born in Douglas, AZ in 1917 and died in Leucadia, CA in 2008. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley; California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco; and the Rudolf Schaefer School of Design, San Francisco. In addition to making art, Farber also worked as a film and art critic for three decades. He received the National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship for Independent Study in 1977-78 and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978-79. His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston among others.