The Discreet Charm of the Outlier Bourgeoisie
|Morris Hirshfield, Tiger, 1940
|Janet Sobel, Milky Way, 1945
Both Clement Greenberg and Jackson Pollock saw Sobel's show in 1946. Greenberg wrote of the experience,
"The effect—and it was the first really 'all-over' one that I had ever seen ... —was strangely pleasing. Later on, Pollock admitted that these pictures had made an impression on him. When Sobel is mentioned at all in accounts of Pollock's development, however, she is generally described and so discredited as a 'housewife,' or amateur, a stratagem that preserves Pollock's status as the unique progenitor, both mother and father of his art, a figure overflowing not only with semen but with amniotic fluid."
Sobel stopped exhibiting just as Pollock was coming to attention. She had developed an allergy to paint and stopped making drip paintings by 1948. Sobel thereafter worked in crayon and pencil—but you can't drip crayons. Sobel's reputation has only recently been revived. LACMA bought a Sobel painting in 2008 (though it's not in this show).
|Drossos P. Skyllas, untitled (Roses), n.d.
|John Kane, Self-Portrait, 1929
"Among twentieth century American paintings I do not know… a more unforgettable animal picture than Hirshfield's Tiger, a more original metaphysical composition than [Patrick J.] Sullivan's Fourth Dimension, or a more moving portrait than John Kane's painting of himself."
All three of Barr's exemplars are in the show (and all are still owned by MoMA). Of the group the Kane self-portrait is best-known today. Least-known by far is Patrick J. Sullivan's Fourth Dimension. It's a great "thrift shop painting" in the Jim Shaw sense, so maybe Barr was ahead of his time.
|Patrick J. Sullivan, The Fourth Dimension, 1938