Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art is pleased to dedicate “Eleanore Mikus: Moving the Line” to the artist’s Neo-Expressionist period; a stylistic shift first presented in a four-part exhibition organized by Ivan Karp at O.K. Harris across 1971 to 1974. With a soaring career as a monochromatic artist, Eleanore Mikus (1927–2017) heralded institutional recognition for her kinesthetic explorations of light and topographies throughout the 1960s. When awarded the McDowell Fellowship in 1969, she expanded the acclaimed oeuvre with vitalizing plays of colors in childlike figurations that presaged the Neo- Expressionism of the 1980s. In this unbridled imagination of cartoonish forms, there lays Mikus’ pursuit of the emotional liberty inherent in lines and geometric shapes that was simultaneously the crux of her monochromatic paintings.
The exhibition unfolds in a phantasmagorical narration of trains, urban housing and a bricolage of fantastical creatures. Unlike Mikus’ early career, her Neo-Expressionist series parades instantly recognizable objects made up of brute strokes or blocks of color. Yet, these direct depictions offer a kind of revelation expected in monochromatic paintings that heighten the artist’s creative impulse and induce a meditative realm for spectatorship. This body of work presents a rare autobiographical insight into the deep strata of the artist’s life. On display are ten archetypal works of Mikus’ Neo- Expressionist practice: closeups of dolphins and trains plopped on vermilion backdrops, a whale sits statically atop a mushroom exuding the stillness in a slab of skyscrapers; these paintings enable the viewers to reconnect with childhood sentiments as kindred spirts of industrial figments. In a similar vein, Mikus renders a portrait of seminal art dealer Ivan Karp with the playfulness offered in frolicking caricatures of an imagined world.
With the advent of Neo-Expressionism in the 1980s, Mikus ceased her foray into the style and proceeded with abstraction for the entirety of her late career. Just as Mikus’ initiation in Neo-Expressionist style when Minimalism was the zeitgeist, the dissent from cresting the wave of an established movement was less so an act of rebellion, but a devotion to substance unfettered by form. She recounted, “‘substance’ I am speaking of the dynamic inner flow of feeling, thought, and imagination, which every true artist struggles to discover, experience, and express.” Having operated in two juxtaposing styles without confining herself in their respective parameters, Mikus offered an uncompromising curiosity for self-cultivation that lived in between childlike naïveté and exhaustive meditation. Bookended by monochromatic paintings, Mikus’ Neo-Expressionist undertakings become both products and subtractions of her abstracted concepts.
A limited edition, full-color catalog has been produced for the exhibition featuring an essay by Craig Staff. The catalog is available for purchase at the gallery.