A Stirring Exhibition of Jane Freilicher’s Work Opens at Kasmin
The late American painter’s evocative still lifes embody her fascination with ordinary domestic scenes
If you’re bored with being at home so much, you might want to see the exhibition “Jane Freilicher: Parts of a World,” at Kasmin gallery in New York, on view from January 21 through February 27. The 15 still lifes in the exhibition, dating from the 1950s to the early 2000s, embody the late American painter’s fascination with ordinary scenes of home life, which often included views from her studios in Manhattan and Water Mill, New York.
The painting from which the exhibition takes its title is a perfect example: A table with a potted orchid, a statue of a woman and a plate of fish sits in front of a rosy-hued bit of New York skyline. The show, the second of Frelicher’s work since Kasmin began representing her estate in 2017, illustrates what Mariska Nietzman, a director of the gallery, calls the artist’s “inexhaustible desire to look and paint what was immediately in front of her—the everyday, the quotidian. That’s why you’ll see the same bowl or small statue reappear, or the soup can and houseplant alongside, all arranged rather casually, in front of her window.”
As Freilicher told ARTnews in 1985, “I’m quite willing to sacrifice fidelity to the subject to the vitality of the image, a sensation of the quick, lively blur of reality as it is apprehended rather than analyzed. I like to work on that borderline—opulent beauty in a homespun environment.”
Freilicher (1924–2014) grew up in Brooklyn, and, in the late ’40s, after college and graduate school, studied with the legendary painter Hans Hofmann. She had her first solo exhibition in ’52, at the Tibor de Nagy gallery in New York and became friendly with a who’s who of the modern art world, including Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Rudy Burckhardt, Larry Rivers, and Fairfield Porter, the latter of whom wrote an admiring review of her exhibition.
Freilicher was also a muse to the poets John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and Frank O’Hara (the first to buy one of her paintings), all of whom admired her wit and warmth. While she was certainly well known in her lifetime, Freilicher’s decision not to embrace abstraction meant that she never attained the renown of some of her peers, but then fame wasn’t her goal. Freilicher’s work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters gave her its highest honor, the Gold Medal.
Freilicher’s daughter, Elizabeth Hazan, is also an artist, although, unlike her mother’s work, Hazan’s is abstract. “My mother’s studio in Water Mill had a daybed, which I took as an open invitation to lie on it and watch her paint,” she tells Galerie. “Anything I learned from her was by osmosis,” she says, adding that “the things that are remarkable about my mother’s paintings—their freshness, honesty, and vivacity—are all qualities I aspire to have in my own work, even though I am working from my imagination and memory, and she was responding to life in front of her.” Also on the horizon is a biography of Freilicher by writer Karin Roffman, which is good news both for longtime fans of the artist’s and a new generation of admirers.
“Jane Freilicher: Parts of a World,” is on view through February 27 at Kasmin gallery, 509 West 27th Street, New York City.