An exhibition of artworks from the collection of the late John Ashbery opens tomorrow (11/1) at the Kasmin Gallery in New York. Over the course of his long life, Ashbery collected works by a wide range of artists, many of whom were his close friends and collaborators, including Alex Katz, Jane Freilicher, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, and Joe Brainard. Many of the works on display have never been exhibited before.
The exhibition “reflects the deep-rooted artistic and personal associations amongst a group of artists and poets who, between them, defined New York’s downtown scene for almost two decades from the 1950s onwards. As the gallery notes in its press release, “it was Ashbery’s wish that upon his death his collection of art be sold with the proceeds supporting experimental artists in various fields.”
More from the Kasmin Gallery:
Acquired by Ashbery over the course of his life, the majority of the works in the poet’s collection were gifts from his artist friends, many of whom he wrote about in his capacity as an art critic. Having relinquished an early ambition to pursue painting, Ashbery went on to cover exhibitions journalistically for over twenty-five years, reshaping art criticism with roles at ARTnews, Newsweek, Herald Tribune, and New York Magazine allowing him the freedom to write about artists that he thought were overlooked or not easily categorized. Ashbery departed for Paris on a Fulbright in 1955 and lived there for a decade—it was in the city that he came to know artists such as James Bishop and Jean Hélion, both of whom have works included in the exhibition. There his editorial stretch continued at Art and Literature, published by painters Rodrigo Moynihan and his wife painter Anne Dunn (also included in the exhibition) producing a journal that blended coverage of avant-garde art, theater, film, performance, and installation art from around the globe.
Ashbery’s collection reveals the composite of styles that were burgeoning contemporaneously during what is now perceived to be one of the century’s most radically productive artistic periods. As the spontaneous creativity of Abstract Expressionism took flight, Alex Katz’s distinctive painterly realism, the traditional portraiture and still life of Fairfield Porter and Jane Freilicher, and the illustrative flair of fellow poet Joe Brainard’s book covers, proposed different ways of looking at the world…Artists represented in the exhibition include James Bishop, Joe Brainard, Rudy Burckhardt, Anne Dunn, Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher, Jean Hélion, Alex Katz, R.B. Kitaj, Rodrigo Moynihan, Philip Pearlstein, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, Anne Ryan, Neil Welliver, and Trevor Winkfield.
There will be an opening on Thursday, November 1, from 6-8, and the show will run from November 1 through December 22.
Meanwhile, don’t forget that there is another exhibition currently showing in New York devoted to Ashbery’s own collages: “John Ashbery: the Construction of Fiction” at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery (through November 14).