LOUISE FISHMAN (1939-2021)
LOUISE FISHMAN (1939-2021)
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LOUISE FISHMAN (1939-2021)

Burnt Bridges

LOUISE FISHMAN (1939-2021)
Burnt Bridges
signed, titled and dated 'Louise Fishman BURNT BRIDGES 1995' (on the reverse)
oil on linen
84 x 61 in. (213.4 x 154.9 cm.)
Painted in 1995.
Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1996
P. Karmel, "Anything Goes - As Long As It's Not Boring," ARTnews, September 1995, p. 129 (illustrated).
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, 1995 Carnegie International, November 1995-February 1996.
New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Louise Fishman: Recent Paintings, October-November 1996.
Purchase College, State University of New York, Neuberger Museum of Art and University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Louise Fishman: A Retrospective, April 2016-December 2017, pp. 88-89 and 215, pl. 53 (illustrated).
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Lot Essay

With fierce black strokes riven against a stormy background, Louise Fishman’s Burnt Bridges (1995) fluidly merges minimalist forms with the vibrant, unconstrained practices of Abstract Expressionism. Recalling Agnes Martin’s sparse yet organic grids and Franz Kline’s painterly ferocity, Fishman’s work conveys a sense of freedom within its organic color palette.

While Fishman shares Martin’s propensity for pure forms, her work is centered in the force and strength of nature. In the present work, broad streaks of dark grey paint skate over the roiling white background, resembling the swirling clouds of an impending storm. In the upper left quadrant, thin white strokes disrupt the black pools, like animalistic claw marks gouged into a tree. Despite their ferocity, Fishman's coaxes architecture out of her gridded lines, rendered in thick obsidian paint so as to appear charred.

In the wake of a destructive fire that consumed much of her studio in 1990, Fishman traveled to New Mexico and began to work with Agnes Martin. Martin’s meditative artistic style and spirituality inspired Fishman to return to raw grids. The title, Burnt Bridges, suggests a literal or metaphorical fire, conveying the intensity of the natural element with which Fishman was all too familiar contending.

After creating her Angry Paintings series in 1973, a collection of feminist works that listed prominent female artists alongside the word “angry,” Fishman continued to unflinchingly portray the depths of emotion, specifically that of her female contemporaries. Although she later moved away from written text, the artist utilized a "language" of visual signifiers to convey universal human experiences. Fishman viewed Abstract Expressionism as “a hidden language, on the radical fringe, a language appropriate to being separate” (L. Fishman, quoted in N. Genzlinger, “Louise Fishman, Who Gave Abstract Expressionism a New Tone, Dies at 82,” The New York Times, 7 August 2021). Burnt Bridges masterfully channels this hidden language, utilizing broad, visible strokes to illustrate internal angst.

After an extensive artistic career, Fishman passed away in 2021. She is remembered for her contributions to the field of Abstract Expressionism and her raw, spontaneous painting style. Burnt Bridges showcases Fishman’s technical prowess, imparting the emotional potency that characterized her career.

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