HARRISON, N.Y. -- Two years ago the son of late artist Ray Spillenger found hundreds of paintings and drawings in his father's apartment on New York's lower east side.
He contacted curator and art historian Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., who went to see the stacks of work, that were in no apparent order, and most were in need of a cleaning.
The discovery led to "A Call, a Visit, and Then an Amazing Discovery... Ray Spillenger: Rediscovery of a Black Mountain Painter" which opened Sunday at the Neuberger Museum of Art. The exhibit runs to Dec. 23.
It is the first to examine Spillenger’s unseen body of work and to assess his contribution to the history of mid-20th century American art, said the announcement.
“I thought, he’s a very good painter; these paintings deserve to be seen," Stebbins said of the collection, which he curated.
He researched the artist and found that he had studied with Willem de Kooning and Joseph Albers at Black Mountain College in Asheville, N.C., and worked in the 1950s and 1960s, experimenting with Abstraction Expressionism.
“The artist was a very private individual, not given to self-promotion and probably not very friendly, and his greatest body of work was produced when Pop art was on the rise and the New York galleries were turning their attention away from Abstract Expressionism,” Stebbins said.
This exhibition, including over 40 paintings and drawings dating from the artist’s Black Mountain College days to the late 1960s, reveals Spillenger’s deep commitment to abstraction and his passionate love of color.
After leaving Black Mountain College, Spillenger moved to New York City where he became a member of “The Club,” a Cedar Tavern regular, and friend to Abstract Expressionist luminaries including Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Philip Guston.
"Abstract Expressionism was strictly an American style invented on 10th Street, and Spillenger was right there when it was being invented,” said Stebbins.
The Neuburger Museum is located at Purchase College at State University of New York, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, N.Y.
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