The Jewish Museum's last major exhibit on abstract expressionism was in 2008, with the outstanding "Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning and American Art, 1940-1976." Also quite worthwhile, albeit on a smaller scale, is the current show on two artists who came of age in the 1930s and took part in the postwar turn to abstraction: Lee Krasner, from a Russian Jewish immigrant family that settled in Brooklyn, and Norman Lewis, an African American whose parents immigrated from Bermuda and settled in Harlem. While Krasner and Lewis didn't know each other, their work had parallels. While other abstract artists of the time were noted for their large canvases, the two showcased here often preferred smaller, more intimate works. Cultural influences are evident in both artists' paintings; Krasner's "little images" were painted right to left, reflecting the order of the Hebrew script she learned as a child ("Untitled," 1948, above top). Lewis's sinuous lines and suggestive shapes suggest jazz improvisation ("Twilight Sound," 1947, above). Among the abstract expressionists, both were indeed "from the margins"; Krasner spent much of her energy promoting Jackson Pollock, her husband, while Lewis has clearly been neglected in modern art history. This exhibit provides an illuminating view of two abstract artists deserving of much wider recognition.
"From The Margins: Lee Krasner And Norman Lewis, 1945-1952" continues through February 1 at the Jewish Museum, 1109 5th Ave. at 92nd St., NYC; (212) 423-3200, thejewishmuseum.org.