This major retrospective is the first opportunity to fully examine Jeanne Reynal’s (1903–1983) significant contribution to postwar American art. On view will be work from the early 1940s through the 1970s, including works on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum. Jeanne Reynal was a mosaicist, and a first-generation New York School artist. She challenged expectations of the medium by creating, as she described, “a new art of mosaic, a contemporary and fresh look for this ancient medium.” Her work was largely abstract, and she was dedicated to the ways in which hand-cut stones and glass tiles, set on a bias, could reflect and create light across a surface. She applied tesserae (the tiles, stone, and shells she used to construct her mosaics) in loose formations, to a ground of pigmented cement. Her work was often subtle and painterly.
Reynal would begin directly, without preparatory designs, and elaborately re-work her surfaces by removing tesserae and re-applying thin layers of cement. As Dore Ashton wrote of her work:
“These surfaces, so appealing to the tactile sense, carried the eye on a fantastic journey through planetary landscapes punctuated by crusty routes of closely-grouped obsidian, and soft, misty hills of pulverized mineral matter. In these compositions the artist approached the freedom of the easel painter.”
Born in White Plains, NY to a French-Jewish family, Reynal apprenticed from 1930–38 with Boris Anrep, a Russian mosaicist working in Paris. She spent the World War II years living in San Francisco, and in Sierra Nevada. Her first solo exhibition was held in Los Angeles in 1940. During her California years, Reynal also developed a lifelong friendship with Isamu Noguchi. She collaborated with Noguchi on several mosaics for tables of his design. The exhibition includes a 1942 table on loan from the Noguchi Museum’s collection. Additionally, the exhibition catalogue accompanying the show will include an essay by Dakin Hart, Senior Curator of the Noguchi Museum, on the subject of their collaboration.
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