The Phillips Collects: Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg

Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg

Left: Lorser Feitelson, Untitled (March 14), 1972, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 40 in. The Phillips Collection, Director’s Discretionary Fund, 2016; Right: Helen Lundeberg, Untitled, 1961, Oil on canvas, 36 x 20 in., The Phillips Collection, Gift of The Feitelson/Lundeberg Art Foundation, 2017

Lorser Feitelson (b. Savannah, Georgia, 1898-d. Los Angeles, 1978) and Helen Lundeberg (b. Chicago, 1908-d. Los Angeles, 1999) were two of the most significant forces for the advancement of modern art in Southern California.

Feitelson was an influential teacher, gallery director, WPA mural administrator, collector, and host of a popular television show, “Feitelson on Art.” For decades, his work was overshadowed by the fact that he was living and working in Southern California while critical attention was focused on the New York School. In 1963, Feitelson became interested in the quality of lines as lines rather than as descriptions of forms. The single line became a major motif of Feitelson’s work of the late 1960s and early 1970s. With paintings such as Untitled (March 14), Feitelson was able to show that with the most subtle adjustments of width, volume, and curve, his paintings can be perceived as serene, exciting, lyrical, sensual, or austere.

Feitelson met Lundeberg at the Stickney Memorial School of Art in Pasadena in 1930, where he was her professor. Together they founded Subjective Classicism (also known as Post-Surrealism), a more conceptual version of European Surrealism’s dream worlds. She moved toward abstraction in the 1950s, and her untitled painting depicting angular planes in hues of olive and brown is typical of her mid-century “hard-edge” style.

“These elegant paintings by Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg are important additions to the Phillips’s holdings of California modernism, which also encompasses works by Richard Diebenkorn and Frank Lobdell. They provide visitors and students with a richer and more nuanced view of the history of modern American painting.”-Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski

The Phillips Collects: Richard Serra

Richard Serra, Reykjavik, 1991

Richard Serra, Reykjavik, 1991, Paintstik over screenprint on Japan paper, 67 x 76 in., ed. 7/46, The Phillips Collection, Gift of Sid Stolz and David Hatfield. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Reykjavik is a silkscreen created with oil-stick at Gemini G.E.L Editions, where Richard Serra (b. 1938) worked frequently during the late 1980s and the early 1990s, developing a process that gives these prints the weight and physical presence of his sculpture. Here, he begins with a single layer of flat black ink applied onto a specially treated paper in the areas to be coated with oil-stick. The rich quality of the work is the result of passing the viscous material through the screen and from using a textured roller over the surface of the print. Serra’s Afangar (1990)—a topological sculpture project on a small island near Reykjavik comprised of nine pairs of black basalt columns cut from local quarries and placed around the island’s periphery—was a source of inspiration for this series of prints. Working on the project prompted Serra to fill many notebooks with drawings, which were later transferred onto small etching plates. Serra turned to silkscreen to achieve on paper a sense of monumental landscape.

Detail of Richard Serra, Reykjavik, 1991

Detail of Richard Serra, Reykjavik, 1991. Photo: Kabrea Hayman

Bice Lazzari: Music and Poetry

Bice Lazzari in her studio in Rome_Photo by Sergio Pucci

Bice Lazzari in her studio in Rome. Photo: Sergio Pucci

“Bice Lazzari had a unique mind. Her early work was a precursor to abstraction in many ways, as she was always striving to go beyond the usual vision to the next level, seeking the essence, the core of the painting.”-Renato Miracco, curator of Bice Lazzari: The Poetry of Mark-Making (on view at The Phillips Collection through February 24) and former cultural attaché to the Embassy of Italy

Born in Venice, Bice (Beatrice) Lazzari (1900-1981) was a pioneer in postwar Italian art. For most women in the early 20th century, there were limited opportunities to pursue a career in the fine arts. Although trained as a figure painter, Lazzari began her career in the late 1920s in the applied arts, which emphasized a geometric style. In the postwar years, she made Rome her permanent home and it was there that she found her own artistic path. Her paintings of the 1950s are expressive and abstract, while her works of the 1960s and 70s, though increasingly reductive, are highly experimental in materials and have a singular focus on rhythmic mark-making.

Lazzari’s work resonates with utmost control and minimal gesture. Using pencil, ink, and pastel, Lazzari creates poetic compositions that resemble graphs, maps, musical staffs, and notes. Later in her career, she used acrylics and further simplified her imagery, creating grids, lines, rows of dots and dashes, and irregular shapes using a limited palette. Reflecting her lifelong passion for music and poetry, Lazzari’s lines and forms create rhythms that interact with each other, making her works come alive in a manner akin to musical notation.

Through February 24, The Phillips Collection is proud to showcase four paintings by the artist recently gifted to the museum by Lazzari’s family and the Lazzari Archive in Rome, the first of her works to enter the collection, along with several loaned works on paper.

“Everything that moves in space is measurement and poetry. Painting searches in signs and color for the rhythm of these two forces, aiding and noting their fusion.”-Bice Lazzari, 1957

Bice Lazzari, Sensa titolo, 1974, Acrylic on canvas, 9 13/16 x 9 13/16 in., Gift of Mariagrazia Oliva Lapadula and the Archivio Bice Lazzari, Roma 2018, courtesy of the Embassy of Italy, Washington, DC

Bice Lazzari, Sensa titolo, 1974, Acrylic on canvas, 9 13/16 x 9 13/16 in., The Phillips Collection, Gift of Mariagrazia Oliva Lapadula and the Archivio Bice Lazzari, Roma 2018, courtesy of the Embassy of Italy, Washington, DC