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Irene Monat Stern: Bloom of Life

Curated by Jillian Russo, Director of Exhibitions
Viewing room
16 - 30 June 2020

Her earthy tones capture the atmospheric effects of nature

A lyrical abstract painter, Irene Monat Stern’s luminous paintings explore floral and organic forms using thin veils of semi-translucent color. Her earthy tones capture the atmospheric effects of nature, from the bloom of a bright yellow flower to the movement of grey-blue water. Stern’s compositions evoke comparisons with the works of Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, who popularized stain painting in the 1950s, but Stern used this technique to her own ends. In contrast to Frankenthaler and Louis, who more explicitly used gravity to flow paint across their canvases and to create forms, Stern’s color fields appear to magically grow upwards.

 

After surviving the Holocaust in Poland as a young girl, Stern moved to Paris and then to New York, arriving in 1954. She began studying art at the New York School for Social Research, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum, initially focusing on watercolor. She met the accomplished abstract sculptor Jan Peter Stern, whose large public commissions can be seen throughout New York City and across the country, and the couple married the following year.

 

In 1965 Irene and Peter moved to Southern California, where her painting began to flourish. Inspired by the...

A lyrical abstract painter, Irene Monat Stern’s luminous paintings explore floral and organic forms using thin veils of semi-translucent color. Her earthy tones capture the atmospheric effects of nature, from the bloom of a bright yellow flower to the movement of grey-blue water. Stern’s compositions evoke comparisons with the works of Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, who popularized stain painting in the 1950s, but Stern used this technique to her own ends. In contrast to Frankenthaler and Louis, who more explicitly used gravity to flow paint across their canvases and to create forms, Stern’s color fields appear to magically grow upwards.

 

After surviving the Holocaust in Poland as a young girl, Stern moved to Paris and then to New York, arriving in 1954. She began studying art at the New York School for Social Research, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum, initially focusing on watercolor. She met the accomplished abstract sculptor Jan Peter Stern, whose large public commissions can be seen throughout New York City and across the country, and the couple married the following year.

 

In 1965 Irene and Peter moved to Southern California, where her painting began to flourish. Inspired by the coastal landscape, light, and weather, she created ambitious large-scale compositions, which demonstrate her mastery of her medium. A solo exhibition at Source Gallery in San Francisco in 1975 brought her critical acclaim. Taking advantage of the gallery’s expansive loft space, the innovative installation highlighted the paintings Bloom of Life and Downstream by suspending them from hanging panels so that they appeared to float in midair.

Source Gallery, San Francisco, 1975

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Installation view: Irene Monat Stern, Source Gallery, San Francisco, 1975.
Installation view: Irene Monat Stern, Source Gallery, San Francisco, 1975.
Installation view: Irene Monat Stern, Source Gallery, San Francisco, 1975.
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Diaphanous Deltas

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The diaphanous deltas of warm, earthy color and pure form against the pristine background combine to create a visual impact that is simultaneously serene and subtle yet boldly dramatic.

-Source Gallery, 1975

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Makes acrylic seem weightless

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Irene Monat Stern with her Untitled painting

Stern has developed these large paintings at the Source Gallery out of her work with watercolors as well as collages and monoprints. At some point in this evolution Morris Louis seems to have been an influence…Yet technique is all they share; the statements both artists make about the nature of paint differ. Louis’ stains and pours often follow the force of gravity…Stern, on the other hand, makes acrylic seem weightless.

-Judith L. Dunham, Artweek, May 1975

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Contact us

For more information about Irene Monat Stern: Bloom of Life, please contact us at info@hollistaggart.com or 212.628.4000.

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    Irene Monat Stern, Untitled, circa 1965-1975, Acrylic on unprimed canvas, 56 5/8 x 66 3/8 inches