The show will be held at our 88 Eldridge Street location, directly across the street from the artist’s last studio and residence, a converted synagogue that will open to the public as the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation in April with a survey exhibition of some of Resnick’s masterworks, Milton Resnick: Paintings 1937–1987.
Resnick was the youngest of the first generation Abstract Expressionist; he died in 2004. He is best known for the large, heavy ‘walls’ of paint he produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s, that is after a fertile context for their reception had long vanished. These imposing, physical contractions of gestural abstraction into the stuff of paint itself are both tumultuous and restrained at the same time. They achieve a clear limit of Abstract Expressionism and are the outgrowth of an unique encounter between an acute emotional charge and a specific material substance, one with recognizable and age-old affective powers. In these works, pigments are mixed with the other chemical components of oil paints to produce immediate, rhythmic results for the viewer’s eyes to engage with. And in a sense, there is nothing more or less to it, and that is perhaps precisely what makes these paintings so impactful today. They appear like foreign objects affirming their almost uncomfortable, yet unquestionable presence and realm of sensation into our pulverized and starved digital reality.
In 1981, Resnick was able to purchase a three-roll mill and a pony mixer with which he started to manufacture his own oil colors. He thus finally liberated himself from having to pay retail costs for his paints, and from then on controlled his means of production. He enlisted the help of young artists, and together as a cooperative they bought linseed oil in bulk as well as pigments from various wholesale suppliers such as large chemical corporations. In hindsight, this production association seems to be in large part responsible for allowing Resnick to imagine and make these groudbreaking, majestic paintings from the period. As Geoffrey Dorfman notes, “access to unlimited resources would feed his attempt at becoming, metaphorically speaking, his own universe.”
Towards the latter part of the 1980s, in his 3rd floor small studio room one peers directly into when coming out of the gallery’s elevator, Resnick began making paintings on paper in which things such as single figures and objects started to emerge, not unlike mirages out of his restraining ‘walls’ of paint. Subsequently a second figure, then groups of people asserted themselves in gradually more colorful and exuberant pictures. Ultimately, in the no less than seven thousand gouaches, acrylic paintings, and pastels he frenetically produced during the last two decades of his career, Resnick activated the other classical genres of still-life and landscape before returning to various categories of abstract painting during the last four years of his life.
This exhibition stages a selection and sequence of fifty-three works – among so many other possible alternatives and combinations – one which seeks to adequately manifest and deploy the extraordinary range of artistic abilities of one of the most voracious and ambitious talents working in New York, and in the Lower East Side in particular, during the last three decades of the twentieth century.