Cheim & Read is pleased to present Serge Poliakoff: Gouaches 1938–1969, an exhibition devoted to the works on paper of the Russian-born painter who lived and worked in Paris. This show follows the survey of Poliakoff's work held at the gallery in 2016, which was the artist's first solo exhibition in New York in thirty-five years. Gouaches 1938–1969 opens on 20 May and runs through 25 September 2021.
Serge Poliakoff (1900–1969) has long been considered a painter's painter: Sean Scully has written an essay to accompany the current exhibition; Amy Sillman selected his Composition (1956) for The Shape of Shape, her acclaimed 2019 Artist's Choice show at the Museum of Modern Art; Joe Fyfe curated the 2016 exhibition and wrote its catalogue essay. Fyfe also worked with Cheim & Read to organise the 2020 exhibition of the late American painter Kimber Smith, who also lived and worked in Paris.
'Poliakoff,' Fyfe noted, 'was one of the "Nouvelle Ecole de Paris",' or the New School of Paris, 'a group of artists who came a generation after Picasso, Léger, Matisse, Miró, and Braque.' Like the Abstract Expressionists in the United States, he turned to pure abstraction exclusively in the postwar period, although works such as Bandes colorées (1937) are evidence that he was already interested in it by the mid-1930s. In May 1936, in a letter to Josef Albers at Black Mountain College, he wrote, 'Abstract art is finally taking off in quite a few countries.'
Poliakoff, however, never adopted the oversize scale of his American counterparts, and continued to paint in a cramped studio even after he achieved recognition and financial success. The gouaches displayed in this exhibition, which are as small as 8.27 by 5.91 inches and no larger than 25.59 by 18.9 inches, underscore that sense of privacy. Their dazzling chromatic array departs from the loaded brushwork of the artist's oil paintings with a freshness, intimacy, and personal touch that revels in the immediacy of pure, vibrant pigment.
Writing about the gouaches in 1950, the French critic Pierre Gueguen stated: 'Here is a serious mind, entirely dedicated to the dream of forms for form's sake, which is the great mystery to be solved for Abstraction. He goes from the geometric purity of archetypes to the quivering of perceptions, held as they are like a tide entering a dike, canal or quay of a port.'
Press release courtesy Cheim & Read.