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Flora Crockett

works from the 1940s and 1950s


Flora Crockett works from the 1940s and 1950s

Meredith Ward Fine Art 44 east 74th street suite g new york ny 10021 tel 212 744 7306 info@meredithwardfineart.com


Untitled, 1941 Oil on canvas board, 30 x 22 inches 4


Introduction With this exhibition, we are pleased to present the paintings of Flora Crockett from the 1940s and 1950s. It is the second exhibition of her work at the gallery after our inaugural show in 2015, which focused on her works of the 1960s and 1970s. While the later works are the achievements of an artist in the last decades of her life, these early works reveal her roots in 1920s and 1930s Paris and her emergence into a unique artistic vision. Born in Grelton, Ohio in 1892, Crockett attended Oberlin College and later Thomas Training School in Detroit, Michigan, where she studied to become an instructor in art. In 1924, she made her way to Paris in the company of her husband, the sculptor Edmondo Quattrochi, and took a teaching job at a school in Poissy. Around 1926, she joined Fernand Léger’s Académie Moderne in Paris, and perhaps due to her earlier training at the Thomas School in Detroit, was eventually named Director of the Académie. Crockett spent more than ten years in Paris working at the Académie and exhibiting her work at various galleries and group exhibitions. By the end of 1937, however, with her marriage strained and war brewing in Europe, Crockett returned to the United States. She arrived in New York a divorced, single woman in a country still in the midst of the Great Depression, and war in Europe just over the horizon. Her prospects seemed dim. Within months, though, she established a relationship with the dealer Blanche Bonestell, who ran the Bonestell Gallery on 57th Street, and consigned a group of paintings to her for sale. She also got work through the WPA to teach and direct an art program in Potsdam, New York and showed her work in the public library there in 1939. She participated in the WPA mural program, as well, although a record of the work she produced has not been found. A photograph of Crockett among a group of mural artists at the Red Hook Housing Project in Brooklyn in 1940, suggests that she was part of that lively community of artists during those hard-scrabble times who sought work through the Federal arts project.

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Untitled Oil on canvas board, 30 x 24 inches 6


Notably, several of her paintings were included in an exhibition of the Bombshell Artists Group at the Riverside Museum in New York City. The group had been organized by art dealer Samuel Kootz in response to a months-long debate in the summer of 1941 in The New York Times between Kootz and the Times art critic Edward Alden Jewell. According to Jewell, Kootz had lobbed “a shattering bomb” in the form of a letter to the editor which asked, “Isn’t there a new way to reveal your ideas, American painters? Isn’t it time right now to check whether what you’re saying is regurgitation, or tired acceptance, or the same smooth railroad track?” Within months, the Bombshell Group was founded as “a non-profit-making artists’ organization which has as its Flora Crockett (center), Marion Greenwood, and others aim the furthering of vital contem- at the Red Hook Housing Project, Brooklyn, c. 1940. porary art and of the interests of the living artists … seeking out and encouraging new directions in art.” 1 The show opened on March 2, 1942 to some favorable critical reviews. Unfortunately, any notoriety she may have received from the show was overshadowed by the America’s entry into World War II. With the outbreak of the war, Crockett took a job as an inspector of artillery parts. Government work continued after the war at the New York Naval shipyard. These and a variety of engineering and design jobs supplemented her income throughout the 1940s and 1950s, while she continued to exhibit her work. She had a one-person exhibition at the Bonestell Gallery in 1946, but subsequent efforts to show her work met with little success. Crockett’s works from the 1940s and 1950s are stylistically distinct from those of the later decades. They are diverse in composition and use a range of palettes. The concepts Crockett explores in these paintings had been gestating since the 1920s and 1930s during her years with Léger in Paris. They display an interest in surrealism and a willingness to

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Untitled Oil on canvas board, 24 x 20 inches 8


experiment with indefinite space (pp. 12-13). They range from haunting, dream-like imagery (p. 15) to joyful explorations of whimsical themes (p. 16), from stark industrial subjects (p. 4) to pure, geometric abstraction (pp. 18-19). Since Crockett rarely dated her work, an exact chronology of her stylistic development is difficult to piece together. In general, though, it seems that her impulse toward a brighter palette and greater abstraction increased as time went on. What unfolds is a flowering of a lively and innovative artistic sensibility.

u Deepest gratitude to Mary Emery Lacoursiere, Flora Crockett’s greatniece, whose labor of love in preserving her aunt’s legacy has brought Crockett’s paintings before the public. Thanks are also due to Isabella Rosner, who contributed vital research and organizational help; and Julia Wilcox, who was responsible for all aspects of the exhibition planning and production. Rachael Modrovsky restored the paintings to their original, pristine beauty, and Josh Nefsky provided superb photography for the catalogue. Last but not least, we wish to acknowledge Lynn Nicholas and Sasha Nicholas who understood Crockett’s unsung contribution and introduced her works to the gallery.

M.E.W.

[1] “Art Rebels. ‘Bombshell’ Meeting This Afternoon,” in The New York Times, Nov. 23, 1941.

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Untitled Oil on canvas board, 24 x 20 inches 10


Untitled Oil on canvas board, 20 x 24 inches 11


Mental Landscape Oil on canvas board, 20 x 24 inches 12


Untitled Oil on canvas board, 22 x 28 inches 13


Untitled Oil on canvas board, 24 x 30 inches 14


One Man’s World, 1946 Oil on canvas board, 22 x 28 inches 15


South American Dancers, 1946 Oil on canvas board, 22 x 30 inches 16


Untitled Oil on canvas board, 18 x 24 inches 17


Untitled Oil on canvas board, 20 x 24 inches 18


Untitled Oil on canvas board, 25 x 30 inches 19


published in conjunction with the exhibition

Flora Crockett works from the 1940s and 1950s May 12 –June 30, 2017

Meredith Ward Fine Art 44 east 74th street suite g new york new york 10021 tel 212 744 7306 fax 212 744 7308 info @ meredithwardfineart.com www. meredithwardfineart.com

design The Grenfell Press, New York photography Josh Nefsky printing Permanent Printing, Ltd., Hong Kong edition of 1200 cover detail South American Dancers, 1946, oil on canvas board, 22 x 30 inches frontispiece Flora Crockett at home in her apartment at 233 West 14th Street, c. 1945

publication copyright Š 2017 meredith ward fine art

Flora Crockett: Works from the 1940s and 1950s  
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