Envelopes (1962 - 1963)
April 14 - May 20, 2012
new location: 34 Orchard Street, New York, NY
Kerry Schuss presents Robert Moskowitz Envelopes (1962-1963) as the inaugural exhibition on its new location at Orchard Street. The gallery, previously named KS Art, had been located in Tribeca since 1998.
Exhibited here for the first time together, Robert Moskowitz's Envelopes (1962-63) consists of paintings and drawings depicting everyday envelopes suitable for sending letters: air mail, regular, and manila envelopes float mysteriously on the surfaces of intimate, small-scale works. Turning away from large-scale, collaged canvases incorporating actual window shades---works that made up his successful 1962 one-person exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery - Moskowitz's work took an unpredictable but decisive shift towards illusionism, painterly and poetic effects in this early series.
Moskowitz's use of common objects had lead him early on to be associated with Pop: his paintings were included not only in the New Realists show at Sidney Janis (1962) but also in John Coplans' Pop Art USA (1963) in Oakland as well as Mixed Media and Pop Art at the Albright Knox. (He had also been included in William Seitz' seminal Assemblage show at the Museum of Modern Art in ). The paintings and drawings of envelopes - like contemporaneous works by another hard-to-pigeonhole artist, Ed Ruscha - were economical, yet mysterious renderings of common objects, similarly inspired on the one hand, by Magritte's transformations of the quotidian world into the strange and unfamiliar, and by Jasper Johns' early use of repeated imagery on the other.
Matter-of-fact, dry, and understated, Moskowitz's depictions of only the backs of envelopes evoke mystery and wonder, drawing some of their surprising effects from Magritte's idiosyncratic embrace of illusionism, too: airmail envelopes float on the atmospheric, ambiguous ground of a canvas coated with regular silver house paint. Elsewhere, a manila envelope hovers in an illusionistic field, suspended in the nebulous ether of canvas. While the latter painting also slyly references Malevich' geometry, all of the artist's works invite the viewer to discover the poetics of absence and of everyday messages.
Like the window shades, Moskowitz's envelopes - like painting itself - can be open-ended perspectives evoking deep horizons, landscapes, and hieroglyphs of identifiable sense and meaning. But both formally and materially, the envelope, in Moskowitz's hands, is also a flat cipher of concealment. "I was schooled on Abstract Expressionism," the artist says, "and then moved to collage and with these works, the Envelopes, I was learning to paint." Beyond Moskowitz's formal break-through in this particular series, his envelopes speak the language of painting - like Magritte's and Johns' - through the whispers of silence and poetry. Vehicles of mystery, the intended receiver of these messages remains, along with their ultimate meanings…unknowable. Sealed in the envelope of a question first posed fifty years ago, these paintings and drawings remain as puzzling and wonder-making as ever.
-Todd Alden, New York
New York artist Robert Moskowitz (b.1935) has exhibited throughout the United States and abroad since his first solo exhibition at Leo Castelli in 1962. His 1989 mid-career retrospective originated at the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC and toured to the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, CA and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. This is his second solo exhibit with Kerry Schuss. Moskowitz has had numerous one-person exhibitions at galleries including Blum Helman Gallery, New York, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, San Francisco, Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, Lawrence Markey, San Antonio, Peter Blum, New York, and D'Amelio Terras, New York. His work is numerous collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and The High Museum of Art, Atlanta.