For EXPO Chicago Eric Firestone Gallery (Booth 121) is pleased to present a cross-generational group of artists and estates, including: Judy Bowman, Martha Edelheit, Jay Milder, Helen Oji, Joe Overstreet, Miriam Schapiro, Thomas Sills, Paul Waters, Peter Williams
Born in 1952 in Detroit, MI, Judy Bowman is a collage artist whose practice centers on exalting Black American culture. Her use of vibrant hues, textured paper, and acrylic paint illuminates narratives that move beyond institutional racism and disparaged perspectives of the Black experience—a view that too often limits the full picture of life for Black Americans. Bowman was the subject of a recent solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit titled Judy Bowman: Gratiot Griot.
Martha Edelheit was born in New York City in 1931, where she lived until moving to Sweden in 1993. She is known as a pioneering feminist artist whose work of the 1960s addresses female desire, the body, and skin as a double “canvas” for tattoo imagery. Edelheit’s paintings of tattooed figures led to her depictions of circus performers, which have a frank sexuality; the contorted bodies and body parts, along with their costumed appearance, suggest sadomasochistic play. On-view in the booth will be two of Edelheit’s wood cutouts depicting circus performers from the early 1980s.
Jay Milder (b. 1934, Omaha, Nebraska), first exhibited his “Subway Runners” series at Martha Jackson Gallery, NY, in 1964. These paintings, based on the subject of people running to catch trains, are explosive in their energy and materiality: dense, three-dimensional surfaces of oil paint mixed with volcanic ash. The faces and heads are huge, dominating most of the canvas, with arms and legs in motion, and the setting of subway stations and tracks depicted with loose, gestural marks.
Born 1950 in Sacramento, CA, Helen Oji is a visual artist whose practice is a blend of European, American, and Asian references. It is a fusion of influences that affects her daily and imagined experiences, along with her interest in shape, abstraction, color, calligraphy, music, dance, poetry, and the unconscious. The Point of Departure Series (1973–74) is an exploration of Oji’s heritage and is inspired by ukiyo-e prints, Japanese myths & fairytales, the asian zodiac, and self portraiture.
Joe Overstreet (b. 1933, Conehatta, MI; d. 2019, New York, NY) began his career in the Bay Area. He lived in the North Beach section of San Francisco, and was a fixture of the Beat scene. After moving to New York, he and his partner Corrine Jennings established Kenkeleba House, a gallery that has presented innumerable exhibitions of work by artists of color and women. Overstreet’s work of the late 1950s to the mid 1960s assimilates his interests in Abstract Expressionism, Jazz, and African-American history.
Miriam Schapiro (b. 1923, Toronto, Canada; d. 2015, Hampton Bays, NY) is widely known as a pioneer of the Women’s Art Movement and a leading force in American post-World War II art. Following her formal training at the University of Iowa, she moved to New York with her husband, Paul Brach and integrated into the New York School. Recognized for her colorful and sensuous abstractions of this period, Schapiro showed regularly at André Emmerich Gallery, where in 1958, she was the first woman to have a solo exhibition. A solo exhibition currently on-view at Eric Firestone Gallery, New York, Miriam Schapiro: The Andre Emmerich Years, examines the period of Schapiro’s career during which she showed at the André Emmerich Gallery and follows the trajectory of her work from abstract expressionism to hard-edged works made with the use of computer programming to Pattern and Decoration.
Thomas Sills (b. 1914, Castalia, NC; d. 2000, New York, NY) was born and raised in Castalia, North Carolina. He began painting in 1952, inspired by his wife Jeanne Reynal’s work, and her collection of abstract art. He did not have formal training as an artist, but through Reynal he met a wide range of artists: from Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst, to Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. Sills’s earliest paintings were experimental: he used a variety of tools to apply paint, along with a variety of materials on the surface. He also used an automatist approach. By the late 1950s, he began working with an idea of equivalence between figure and ground, so that each form is both the positive and the negative of the form next to it.
Since the 1960s, Paul Waters (b. 1936, Philadelphia, PA) has made paintings by using scissors as a drawing tool and his fingertips as a brush. He collages painted hand-cut linen shapes onto primed canvas. These silhouetted forms appear as dancers, birds, female warriors, and natural elements as well as pure abstract shapes. Such symbols evoke African art and artifacts, Henri Matisse’s cut-outs, cave paintings, and Waters’ experiences as an African American artist living in New York during the Civil Rights Movement.
Peter Williams (b. 1952, Nyack, New York; d. 2021, Wilmington, DE) made paintings that exist in the space between seductive beauty and abject horror—evoking the complex experiences of Black Americans in the contemporary age. Often humorous and disturbing at once, the artist’s canvases reflect Black history and his own life events. Williams took up subjects ranging from police brutality and mass incarceration, to the celebrities and places that inhabited his imagination. Populating his kaleidoscopic compositions are countless characters from Disney movies and comic books as well as icons from across American visual culture.