David Richard Gallery will present an exhibition of abstract paintings from the 1970s by Leon Berkowitz (1911-1987) that features subtle and misty transitions of color evocative of the gradual shifts in the forces of nature and the inspiration for the series. The exhibition, Unity, will be presented December 13, 2013 through January 25, 2014 with an opening reception on Friday, December 13 from 5:00-7:00 PM at the gallery located on 544 South Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, phone 505-983-9555 in the Santa Fe Railyard Arts District.
The Unities, Leon Berkowitz’s series of paintings that began in 1970, are best characterized as ethereal and diffuse, with elegant and slow transitions from one color to another and pure abstractions that create a sense of harmony and unity. The series was inspired by his travels throughout Europe during the late 1950s through early 60s, where he moved to find himself through and within nature, to search for the unity of nature and himself. Observing the melding of earth and sea with sky, the rising and setting of the sun combined with the rising and waning of the moon, Berkowitz realized that nature was a continuum, a flow of its own forces. Color became his language and the gradual migration from one color to the other without hard boundaries was both mimetic of what he observed in nature and became his composition. He was quoted as saying, “I wanted to look into color, not at color,” which he achieved through radiance, by capturing and harnessing the energy of light within color. Thus, his paintings went beyond the material properties of color to something transcendent, more spiritual, like a portal looking into ones soul.
Born in Philadelphia, Leon Berkowitz is best known as a Washington, D.C. painter, having spent more than forty years in that city. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania, the Art Students League in New York, and in Paris, France, Florence, Italy, and Mexico City, Mexico. During World War II he was in the Army, stationed in Virginia, and in 1945, after completing his military service, he moved to Washington, D.C. Berkowitz and his first wife, the poet Ida Fox Berkowitz, founded Workshop Art Center in Washington, D.C. in 1947, a collective that fostered creativity in the arts through classes, lectures and exhibitions. Berkowitz served as its director during its seven-year history. Many important artists were associated with the Workshop, including Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Gene Davis, Howard Mehring and Thomas Downing, all of whom, along with Paul Reed, would become known as the Washington Color School. In 1953, the Workshop hosted a retrospective exhibition for Willem de Kooning, which established his relationship with Berkowitz. Returning to Washington, D.C. following his decade-long European sabbatical, he painted and taught art for more than ten years at the American University and Catholic University, among other schools. Later, in 1969, he joined The Corcoran School of Art, where he was chairman of the painting department. He continued to teach there for almost twenty years, until his death in 1987. Berkowitz’s artwork is included in the permanent collections of many museums, including Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; and The Phoenix Museum, among others.