Deborah Remington  1930-2010

DEBORAH REMINGTON (b. Haddonfield, NJ, 1930) was drawn to art at an early age.

As a teenager, she attended classes at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. A descendant of the Western artist Frederic Remington, she embraced illusionistic painting, albeit with her own distinctive version of abstraction. Remington received her BFA in 1955 from the San Francisco Art Institute where she studied painting under Clyfford Still. By the time she graduated, Remington had become affiliated with the Bay Area’s burgeoning Beat scene. She was one of six painters and poets, and the only woman, who in 1954 founded the now legendary 6 Gallery in San Francisco, where Allen Ginsberg first read his poem, ”Howl” in public on October 7, 1955.

After graduation, Remington spent two years in Japan studying calligraphy, before traveling throughout Southeast Asia and India, pursuing a lifelong interest in these cultures. She supported herself by working odd jobs, including as a cook, translator, and actress doing bit parts in television and B-grade movies. When she returned to the United States, Remington began painting seriously, eventually joining the Dilexi Gallery in San Francisco where she had several solo shows from 1962 to 1965.

In 1965, Remington moved to New York where she gained renown for an aggressive and emblematic visual language influenced by abstract expressionism. Her signature canvases at this time featured machine-like shapes made of nested forms centered and floating on a ground. The frontal presentation of her imagery with its heightened theatricality and use of intense color juxtapositions, together with ambiguous, radiating light, are hallmarks of her work. In 1966, Remington became affiliated with the Bykert Gallery in New York, then the premier gallery for work by an emerging group of contemporary artists, including Brice Marden, Chuck Close and Dorothea Rockburne among others.

From 1967 to 1968, Remington divided her time between New York and Paris, where she joined the Galerie Darthea Speyer. Her sold-out solo show was presented as the gallery’s inaugural exhibition in 1968, introducing her work to European museums and collectors. Throughout the 1970s, Remington exhibited nationally and internationally while refining her unique imagery. New spatial dialogues emerged in her painting and color took on a new intensity, after her printmaking collaboration with the Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, NM, where she was invited to make lithographs. Remington produced twelve editions there from 1973 to 1981.

A twenty-year retrospective (1963-1983) of the artist’s work opened at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, California, in 1983 (now Orange County Museum of Art), that later traveled to the Oakland Museum of Art. Following a four-year hiatus from exhibiting, Remington showed radically transformed imagery at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City in 1987 and at the Shoshana Wayne Gallery in Los Angeles the following year. The mechanistic, didactic flavor of her earlier work was now replaced with looser, more expressionistic and organic qualities. Rigorously painted surfaces and all-over compositions dominate, lending greater subtlety and hints of paradox. She continued exploring this new vision and exhibiting her work throughout the 1990s, including an exhibition at Galerie Darthea Speyer in Paris in 1992.

In 2001, Remington produced a breakthrough painting titled Eridan, which united the free-flowing gestural energy of her work from the previous decade with the more intense, emblematic, mechanistic, and sensuous aspects of the iconic work of the 70s and 80s for which she is best known. From 1997 to 2006, Remington worked on her last major series titled, Beinen. These large-scale drawings include abstracted forms that resemble rib cages and the interior of chest cavities. Struggling with ill health at the time she made these works, the works seem to connect on a deeply personal level. The critic, Lily Wei remarks, “Inevitably, they evoke a shrouded rib cage, the remnants of a body, point to human fragility and transience. They muse on mortality, on disappearance and reappearance, as if to say that in our beginning is our end, our end yet another beginning.”

Deborah Remington’s work continues to remain relevant, appearing in groundbreaking exhibitions such as the Denver Art Museum’s, Women of Abstract Expressionism in 2016. Her paintings and drawings have been regularly included in major solo and group exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles, as well as Berlin.

Throughout her career, Remington was the recipient of numerous grants and awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1984), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1979), and a Tamarind Fellowship (1973), among others. She was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1999 and received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant that same year. Extensive interviews with the artist have been recorded by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian, Washington, D.C (1972), and by the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, Utah (2004).

The Oral History Project: The Trust’s launch of the Deborah Remington Oral History Project moves towards completion as we have wrapped up interviews with curators, critics, artists, family, and friends who knew her well.