An unusual look at the work of Louise Fishman. Highly regarded for abstract paintings with an athletic reach of scale and gesture, Fishman has long been occupied with the potential that small scale and sculpture hold for her art. Focusing on these less-known aspects, Paper Louise Tiny Fishman Rock concentrates other intimate and potent concerns: the artist’s Philadelphia roots, her feminist and queer politics, Jewish identity, friendships with Agnes Martin and Eva Hesse, and her meditations on the grid.
Paper Louise Tiny Fishman Rock is conceived as a studio visit: a chance for viewers to see bodies of work that represent a largely private practice, including some of the objects Fishman has collected over the years, as well as other surprises, including a selection of sketchbooks, miniature paintings, and small sculptures. Not much bigger than two inches by three inches, the miniatures are as completely realized as full-breadth canvases. The sculptures, some cast in bronze from plaster models, have been constructed largely from found objects, are so elemental in form and substance they appear almost geologic. And the books, which are filled with mediums and modes of mark-making, burst with narrative drive like Amazonian comics rendered abstract. There will also be some very early works, including a self-portrait of the artist as a blonde boxer.
Based in New York since the 1960s, Fishman comments on her formative development and involvement in the feminist movement, in which she was an activist for gay rights: “Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning were big for me—Joan Mitchell too. Then Minimalism came along and I was looking at Sol LeWitt and making hard-edge grid paintings. My group encouraged me to see that everything I was doing as a painter— even using stretched canvas and a paintbrush—was male, and this was problematic. I always hated women’s work—growing up first a tomboy, then an athlete, I never sewed.” The ICA exhibition shows how Fishman attacked these problems and, in the process, granted herself permission to paint on the heroic scale with the freedom she now possesses.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website