TREMBLING THEN & NOW” PAINTINGS AND LITHOGRAPHS BY REVA URBAN (1925 – 1987) REFLECTING SUBJECT MATTER AND STYLES IN ART THAT ARE OF RELEVANCE TODAY
When: October 1 – November 1, 2005
Hours: by appointment only
Where: The Williams Gallery
"TREMBLING THEN" is a suite of lithographs by New York painter Reva Urban. The suite was executed during a two-months’ fellowship at Tamarind Lithogrophy Workshop in 1962 just following the first of three episode of Hodgkin’s disease. The suite is comprised of nine image prints and four text prints.
The images reflect many of the characteristics of her earlier paintings. This similarity is apparent in the suite’s sculptural forms related to human anatomy, vital color, and feeling of aggressive and energetic space.
From "Trembling Then…." Poetry Page #630 Urban writes:
My city, naked
In my red world -
flesh passionate – lays
against concrete grasses
Blood red - Red city
twisting upon itself
Color that feeds life -
nourishes my city
From that strengthens -
builds my city
Flesh that passion names
is my city ©Reva Urban, 1962
From poetry page #631:
The peace I once knew
no more ©Reva Urban, 1962
The abstract images in Riva’s "city" consist of sensuous curved figures seen from above, often twirling outward. In her poetry stanza she describes her vision as "descending helix of bodies". The final verse and the seven unique lithographs speak and illustrate a theme of hope.
Still I sing visions
of descending helix bodies
passion’s gentle power ©Reva Urban, 1962
Peter Selz, Art Historian and Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art wrote at the time that
Reva’s lithographs reflect many of the characteristics of her painting and "contain a highly significant innovation—and have some of the greatest dynamic effect I have in contemporary art".
THE FANTASY SERIES, Oil paintings
Also on view are six oil paintings from Urban's "Fantasy Series"(1980-81)including "The Gentle Warrior" "Fertility Rite", "Who Am I", and "Tribute to Venus". After several bouts with life-threatening illnesses, Urban temporarily stopped producing art. When she started again in 1980 among the first of her new works were the ‘Fantasy" group.
In 1992, her husband Robert Carley wrote to me about her new paintings. He said, "…while the series was a departure from her principal oeuvre these paintings are examples of Reva’s wide-ranging exploration of and experimentation with visual themes and are sly graphic comments on the macho male". Of interest in the paintings is that male figures are masked and female figures are sculptural faceless forms. They are brilliant in color, and again, reflective of her earlier shaped canvases. She used robust brush strokes, aggressive color, and bulging, frequently figurative forms.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Reva moved to Southern California. She returned to New York at age 16 and attended the Art Students League on a Carnegie Fellowship. IN 1949 she married the German-born painter, Albert Urban and later married George Carley. From 1958 she showed extensively nationally and internationally.
Ms. Urban has had the distinction of representing the United States in two Salzburg Festivals, and a selection of her paintings and graphics has toured European museum under the auspices of the United States of America Information Service.
Her work is represented in many public and private and public collections including the MOMA, NY; Univ. Art Museum, Berkely; Chicago Art Institute; Finch College Museum of Art, Illinois University Museum; Avethorp Gallery, Jenkintown, PA, Grunwald Graphic Arts Foundation, CA; and Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, CA.
In August of 1991, Edward Sozanski, art critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote: "Perhaps because she was a woman working in a period dominated by male artists, or perhaps because Hodgkin’s disease forced her to stop painting when her talent was in full flower, the late Reva Urban has been overlooked in chronologies of American painting over the last 30 years".
Faced with illness Urban continued to work in her studio until shortly before her death in 1987.
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