Campus News

Exhibition showcases work of military veterans at The Art Students League of New York

Al Held. Untitled, 1958. oil on canvas. 30.25 x 34.5 inches.
Collection of Michael Hackett-Hale and David Hale, courtesy of Hackett | Mill.
© 2016 Al Held Foundation, Inc./licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

By RACHEL ADAMS

Published March 23, 2016

With benefits from the G.I. Bill, many veterans returning from active duty in World War II received tuition credit and a monthly stipend for living expenses, making it possible for them to attend The Art Students League of New York to learn and experiment with their artistic practices.

The artistic impact of these veterans on the league and the development of post-World War II American art is the focus of “On the Front Lines: Military Veterans at The Art Students League of New York,” an exhibition opening April 2 in the UB Anderson Gallery.

The opening reception will take place from 6-8 p.m. in the gallery, One Martha Jackson Place off Englewood Avenue near the South Campus. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.

The exhibition will run through Aug. 7.

“On the Front Lines” was organized by Jillian Russo, curator of the Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery at The Art Students League of New York. This revised presentation was organized by Robert Scalise, assistant director for exhibitions and collections at the UB Art Galleries in collaboration with The Art Students League of New York. It will include additional artwork from the university's significant collection and other lenders.

Since the passage of the G.I. Bill in 1944, more than 4,000 veterans have studied at The Art Students League of New York. Many of those veterans shaped the course of American art. The artists in this exhibition came to The Arts Students League early in their careers and it was a place where they began to develop their personal styles in response to abstract expressionism — the major movement at the time in the New York art world. Many studied with Morris Kantor and Yauo Kuniyoshi, who influenced the development of their individual styles coming out of The Art Students League.

Featured artists in the exhibition include Charles Alston, Stanley Boxer, Terence Coyle, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Jack Faragasso, Michael Goldberg, Peter Golfinopoulos, Al Held, John Hultberg, Paul Jenkins, Donald Judd, Alfred Leslie, Knox Martin, Frank O'Cain, Anthony Palumbo, Robert Rauschenberg and William Scharf.

David Schirm. Mountain pose, 2015. Oil on canvas. 44 x 48 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

In conjunction with “On the Front Lines,” the UB Anderson Gallery will feature “Cracked Open,” an exhibition of paintings by David Schirm, a member of the UB Department of Art faculty and a Vietnam War veteran, as well as an exhibition of the seminal paintings from “Chapel of Meditation,” an installation by pre-eminent abstract painter Paul Jenkins.

Blending history with personal experience, Schirm’s paintings are formal yet abstracted investigations that explore the relationship between the natural and the manmade. Schirm’s personal landscapes influence his painted ones — from downtown Los Angeles to Vietnam to the countryside of Western New York, his work has continued to address social, cultural and environmental abuses. His imaginative aesthetic is showcased in a small exhibition spanning 40 years of art making.

The exhibition includes work based on research during travels in South Asia for which he received Fulbright Fellowships in 1994 and 2004. Indian miniatures, Eastern philosophies and mythologies, as well as contemporary culture, narrative histories and environmental concerns, have influenced his current paintings and drawings.

Schirm heads the Painting Program in the Department of Art.

Detail, Paul Jenkins. Chapel of Meditation — Phenomena Himalayan, 1971. Acrylic on canvas. 108.5 x 144 inches. ©2014 Estate of Paul Jenkins. Courtesy of the Estate of Paul Jenkins and Robert Miller Gallery

Jenkins’ “Chapel of Meditation” is a non-denominational installation of four large works on canvas from the early 1970s. Employing an unorthodox approach to paint application, Jenkins is as much identified with the process of controlled paint-pouring and canvas manipulation as with the gem-like veils of transparent and translucent color that have characterized his work since the late 1950s.

Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Jenkins studied for four years with Yasuo Kuniyoshi at The Art Students League. He ultimately became associated with the abstract expressionists, inspired in part by the “cataclysmic challenge of Pollock and the total metaphysical consumption of Mark Tobey.” In 1956, Jenkins had his first New York solo exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery, which continued to feature his work for two decades. The UB Art Galleries has significant key works by Jenkins in the collection.

With an ongoing interest in Eastern religions and philosophy, the study of the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching, and the writings of Carl Gustav Jung, Jenkins turned toward inward reflection and mysticism, which dominated his aesthetic as well as his life. “Chapel of Meditation” offers a contemplative space in which the viewer becomes enveloped within the radiant light and veiled mists found in the artist’s work. A mysticism of the senses is indeed brought forth in these paintings by Jenkins, who uses the nonrepresentational to demonstrate the priority of the metaphysical — in life, as well as art.