Opening reception: Saturday, July 16, 6–8pm
Blum & Poe is pleased to present The Family, New York-based artist March Avery’s third solo exhibition with the gallery and her first in Tokyo.
The oil paintings and watercolors presented in The Family epitomize the way that March moves through the world—processing intimate moments shared with loved ones through art making, as though it is another of her basic human senses. Spanning more than fifty years of the artist’s career, these portraits capture daily scenes shared with close friends or family—such as her mother Sally, her son Sean, and her granddaughter Delilah. Commemorating these interactions in March’s signature style—a distinctive fusing of abstraction, figurative motifs, and emotive palettes—these works expose the exquisite in the quotidian, celebrating brief interpersonal exchanges in vivid color and intuitive compositions.
The daughter of revered artists Sally Michel and Milton Avery, March developed both her style and her approach to subject matter through summers spent traveling with her parents in search of, as Sally put it, “new shapes and new ideas.” Milton is now regarded within the art historical canon as a bridge between Realism and Abstract Expressionism—the Averys’ family friends Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko both acknowledged Milton’s important influence on their work. March’s style of painting, while owing much to that of her mother and father, distinguishes itself nevertheless.
Though she always knew she wanted to be an artist, March studied philosophy at Barnard College; thus, her primary arts education was garnered through making work alongside her parents. A simple but pivotal element of March’s practice, one that sets her apart from her elders, is her use of a camera when documenting subject matter—March uses this device as well as sketching for initial documentation, whereas her parents would only sketch. March’s work is also occasionally informed by a source of inspiration that she has said her parents would never utilize—the artist’s own imagination.
The title of Quiet Pleasure (1970), a contemplative portrait of a woman in a marigold sweater and tangerine skirt leaning against a turquoise backdrop, exemplifies the mood of the individuals that comprise The Family. Often in states of repose, Avery’s subjects are perpetually suspended within vignettes of life’s beautiful minutiae. These works highlight the private, peaceful parts of our human experience: mothers cradle babies to their chests to breastfeed; a man in slippers and a seafoam bathrobe enjoys a cup of coffee in Garden Breakfast (2007); and the quiet intimacy of reading together is memorialized in Reading Aloud (1972) and Daily News (1976). In Handheld Shower (2005), March captures a private moment wherein Philip Cavanaugh, who was her husband for more than 60 years, hovers above a bath of pale blue water. His nude form is in stark contrast with the background of red ceramic tiles and orange mortar, as speckled and vibrant as a poppy field. With Checker Players (Kelly and Sally) (1984), March expertly articulates the passive act of human bonding through subtle body language, played out amongst alternating blocks and fields of rich pigment. The artist captures these fleeting instances of simple joy, moments that might otherwise go unnoticed, through her regular sketching practice and by photographing her daily companions, making sure to view each day as an opportunity for inspiration. Against the backdrop of the tumult of 2022, these works summon the easily forgotten, but very real, aspects of living: the small, daily experiences of awe, wonder, and reverence.
March Avery (b. 1932, New York, NY) lives and works in New York. Her work is represented in public collections including the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME; Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages, Stony Brook, NY; Newark Museum of Art, Newark, NJ; New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN; Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, Woodstock, NY; among many others.