Fishman’s art has always been difficult to pin down. Writing in Bomb magazine, the artist Archie Rand has persuasively argued that Fishman belongs “in the last open slot of the first generation of Ab Ex,” while at the same time comparing her to such dissimilar painters as John Sloan, Frederick Remington, Bram van Velde, Pierre Bonnard, and Georges Braque. Other writers have aligned her work at one time or another with the Pattern and Decoration movement of the mid-1970s and even Neo-Expressionism. She has made gestural as well as hard-edge abstractions, word paintings (her Angry Women series of 1973), and representational self-portraits, sometimes using such unconventional supports as rug samples, sandpaper, and canvases folded like accordion books.
The varied nature of her work can be explained by a simple statement from the artist herself, who said, “My intention, always, was to not repeat a painting, was to not repeat aspects of paintings. My intention in painting is to keep discovering and to keep changing.” She also occupies the paradoxical position of reconciling her formalist concerns with a strong commitment to her Jewish, feminist, lesbian identity.
Fishman’s new paintings, made in 2016 and 2017, push to extremes the artist’s spontaneous improvisations upon an implied grid, in works that range widely in scale, from 4 by 6 inches to 96 inches in width. The paint can be troweled, squeezed from the tube, diluted into a wash, or pressed on with a sheet of paper and pulled off. The mediums include oil, watercolor, egg tempera, colored pencil, ink, and graphite.