New exhibition! Sylvia Wald: Seven decades



January 19, 2012-March 18, 2012
Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery
Quick Center for the Arts, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT

Image: Sylvia WaldWith a career that spans seven decades, Sylvia Wald (1915-2011) produced an oeuvre that is remarkable not only in its chronological length but also in its wide range of expression, diversity of media, and technical excellence. Fairfield University's Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery, located in the Quick Center for the Arts, presents a comprehensive survey of her work in the exhibition Sylvia Wald: Seven Decades, opening on Thursday, January 19, 2012, and on view through Sunday, March 18, 2012. The exhibition shows Sylvia Wald as an experimenter and innovator, an artist who enlarged the potential of the silkscreen method of printmaking and developed a highly personal approach in her use of unusual materials in her later three-dimensional works. An evening reception, free and open to the public, takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on January 19, 2012.

Sylvia Wald was born in Philadelphia on October 30, 1915, and studied at the Moore Institute of Art, later working as an elementary school art teacher through the Works Project Administration (WPA). Determined to further her artistic options, Wald moved to New York City in 1937. Her paintings of the time echoed the prevailing trend of Social Realism, with subject matter portraying the life and environment of average Americans and a sympathetic eye toward their economic plight. "Anticipating her later experimental nature, Wald's early paintings reflected aspects of modernist trends with mild distortions of form and perspective and the use of non-naturalistic color," said Jeffrey Wechsler, exhibition curator and former Senior Curator of the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University.

Image: Sylvia WaldAfter Wald had her first solo exhibition, she was encouraged to try printmaking, which was both a significant and affordable art medium at that time. Wald's first involvement with screenprinting dates from 1941, and she immediately approached the medium with a painter's eye and hand, and with an interest in exploring its full material and visual potential. Her first prints were lively in subject and chromatic diversity, and by 1950, she has developed her imagery well into abstract formats. "Wald made great use of the viscous properties of screenprint ink," said Mr. Wechsler, "forcing it through the screen in amounts that would be excessive in standard practice, but important to her in allowing tendril-like ridges of matter to be deposited on her amorphous forms, suggesting plant tissue or the semi-solid substance of organic matter."

By the late 1950s, Sylvia Wald's printmaking pushed the limits of the silkscreen and contributed to its significance as a serious artistic medium. She managed to capture abstract expressionism, particularly the explosive linear and gestural power of  "action painting" within the confines of the print. "Wald's prints of this type, filled with rattling linework that zigzags through the image like lightning bolts, took on the boisterous, aggressive side of contemporary art on its own terms, and are among the few coherent bodies of prints to do so," said Mr. Wechsler. The angular forms of her abstract expressionist prints led to a series of paintings in that style in the late 1950s and early 1960s, often measuring over five or six feet on a side and erupting with slashing, swinging, long brushstrokes in a multitude of colors. "These are pulsing, energized paintings," said Mr. Wechsler. "The vigor of the gestures that cover the surfaces in staccato or sliding strokes is unabated."

Image: Sylvia WaldSylvia Wald's many works are also hybrids between collage and assemblage.  The artist clearly loved paper for its own visual properties, and in these works paper is combined with other materials - often including wood in the form of twigs - but generally featuring the many properties of paper. By painting it, soaking it with color, folding or bending or twisting or ripping it, Wald revealed the many sides of paper. She also worked in sculpture as far back as the 1940s, although her later pieces are wholly individual works that delight in the metamorphosis of the most homely or unlikely materials into objects of whimsy, fascination, and delight. "The more rough-hewn, or industrial, or ephemeral a material, the greater was the artist's ability to transform it," said Mr. Wechsler. "The career of Sylvia Wald is an exemplar of the power of the personal artistic imagination paired with technical expertise. She remained an individual who generated her own ideas and forms, following her own interests."

Sylvia Wald's works are featured in many national and international collections, among them: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.

The Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery is free and open to the public. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., and approximately one hour prior to curtain and during intermission at all Quick Center events.

The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts is located on the campus of Fairfield University at 1073 North Benson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut. Entrance to the Quick Center is through the Barlow Road gate at 200 Barlow Road. Free, secure parking is available. Access for people with disabilities is available throughout the Quick Center. Fairfield University is located off exit 22 of Interstate-95. For further information and directions, call (203) 254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396, or visit www.fairfield.edu/quick.

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Media Contact: Mike Horyczun, (203) 254-4000 ext. 2647, mhoryczun@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 6, 2012

Vol. 44, No. 159