In April 2009 the Dactyl Foundation for Arts and Humanities will present a thirty-year retrospective of paintings and drawings by Judy Glantzman. The recipient of numerous awards, including a Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant, an Anonymous Was A Woman Foundation Grant, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, Glantzman’s work can be found in a number of private collections and museums.
Glantzman’s fourth solo exhibition at Dactyl Foundation and first retrospective includes works beginning in 1979, a pivotal year for Glantzman as well as for the art world. She had graduated from Rhode Island School of Design the year before, earning the Silver Medal from the Royal Society of the Arts and other prestigious awards, but not quite assured by these achievements, she sought to prove to herself she was the artist she felt herself to be. After many thoughtful months working her NYC studio, working apart from any community for the first time as an artist, she discovered she had a profound faith in what she was doing even when she did not understand it. She learned to trust her mistakes as sources of growth and exploration, treating them like the wise and riddling sages they were. The style that emerged from this bold commitment was manifestly fearless.
Her work would find a place within the youthful exuberance of Neo-Expressionism that was then bursting into life in New York’s East Village. In 1979 Jean-Michel Basquiat was just gaining notoriety, Julian Schnabel was having his first solo show at Mary Boone Gallery, David Salle was launching his career, and art market profits were beginning to show signs of the unprecedented numbers to come. On the one hand, these profligate and brash artists were rebelling against the Minimalist aesthetic that had seemed to them Puritanical. On the other, they were abandoning the idealistic notions of art as a non-commodity and embracing Andy Warohl’s entrepreneurialism.
A bit differently, Glantzman’s practices as a Neo-Expressionist began not as an act of rebellion so much as a revision of her influences, which included Bacon, de Kooning, and her own mother, Abstract Expressionist Muriel Taub Glantzman. A vital part of the movement, in the 80s, she had over forty-five groups shows and sixteen solos shows. She was associated throughout that decadent decade with other East Village artists, but her critical respect for the past would eventually distinguish her from her peers whose rebellious distrust of their own predecessors would lead them further and further into ironic self-consciousness.
In the late 80s the full-on self-conscious tongue-in-cheek of Jeff Koons and Sherrie Levine came to define the latest art trend. At that point, it was clear Glantzman’s path diverged. She continued to have faith in her process and her expressive abilities, and although her work was often whimsical, it was never a joke, nor did it ever try ironically to cast doubt on his own ability to represent.
In the 90s, she often focused on drawing, producing exquisite small pen and ink works on paper, Durer-like in their sensitivity. Her paintings became increasingly related to drawing, culminating in the large White Paintings. In the next decade, always unafraid of risk, she leapt without transition to multicolored fully-covered canvases, remarking that she “learns from going to extreme.” With maturity, there came clarity and the further development of certain skills. Throughout, however, she maintained her early commitment to the pleasures of suspending judgment. To keep going was her way, no matter what disappointment or surprise she might encounter.
A thread runs through these thirty years, as recognizable as a person’s handwriting. Her subjects have always been introspective and psychological, self-portraits painted as in a dream. With each work, she finds a person that she didn’t know she knew, that, in coming to know, she helps make. Her many layered images show the human core as a morphing thing. Her lines and sketches capture many moments, but, significantly, only as they are about to happen. She has often noted that just before the instant of realization, she is already sensitive to it. And it seems that being an artist requires just this degree of prescience.
Today her work remains true to her original commitment to the representation of the evolving, self-creating self. The exhibition will mainly feature the quirky portraits that have come to define her fearless style. This style has created images that give voice to the very thing we all have in common, the need to deal with fear. If it seems as if the characters she paints are quivering, it’s because they are just getting the first clue about what’s ultimately to come, the first clue that it’s scary. She invites her viewer to have the courage to experience life and to make mistakes, for only in this way can one grow and be alive.