JJ MURPHY GALLERY is pleased to present An Extended Family of Painters: Hermine Ford, Robert Moskowitz, Jack Tworkov, Janice Biala, and Daniel Brustlein, opening on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, 6–8 PM. The exhibition, the gallery’s second, explores the notion of artistic lineage—a nod to the important historical show from 30 years ago: A Family: Biala, Daniel Brustlein, Hermine Ford, Erik Moskowitz, Robert Moskowitz, and Jack Tworkov at the Kouros Gallery, Uptown.

Jack Tworkov was a member of the group of artists associated with “The Club,” a major figure in Abstract Expressionism and the New York School, as well as an important educator. Due to his prominent position in the art world, he exerted an influence on other family members, including the painter Robert Moskowitz, who married his daughter Hermine Ford. As Moskowitz suggests, even though Tworkov had a very different conception of abstraction, “he helped me to understand what I was doing.” Tworkov’s memoir, The Extreme of the Middle: Writings of Jack Tworkov (2009), edited by Mira Schor, provides a highly personal account of these close familial connections, including personal correspondence with them.

Although a major figure in canonical movements, as Schor points out, Tworkov was often at odds with his peers, continually questioning the prevailing orthodoxy and taking exception to what he perceived to be their rigid dogmatism. Tworkov gradually began to feel that gestural abstraction had reached a dead end. He found that geometry could provide a structure, or as he put it, “Geometrics or any systemic order gives me a space for meditation, adumbrates my alienation.” As his work changed, it became a framework in which he could still be both spontaneous and expressive, but within defined parameters.

Hermine Ford (born 1939) was initially reluctant to choose a career in art. She once remarked, “I grew up in a family of artists and had married one, and I tried very hard to become other things. Finally, I gave in and decided I would summon the courage to make my own way as a painter.” Ford’s recent paintings derive from drawings that she makes on butcher paper, which she then traces onto a wooden support. The shaped forms, such as circles and triangles, fit together like pieces of an irregular puzzle, establishing spatial relationships within which Ford creates mosaic-like patterns and flat sections of texture and color. The resulting effect involves a delicate tension among the various elements: shape, color, and pattern.

Originally interested in commercial art, Robert Moskowitz (born 1935) switched to fine art after taking a course with Adolph Gottlieb at Pratt. He gained notice for a series of window shade paintings in the 1960s, first begun in England, which were then included in the Art of Assemblage exhibition at MoMA in 1961. His work changed from assemblage to a more austere, minimal imagery that was included in New Image Painting at the Whitney Museum of Art in 1978. Many paintings feature architecture—landmark buildings, notably the Flatiron Building and the Empire State Building, or other modern skyscrapers—along with teapots, the red cross symbol, and windmills. What stands out about Moskowitz’s paintings is their bold graphic impact, in which he reduces representational imagery to its essential form. As he explained in an interview, “I’m really interested in taking sculpture and making it two-dimensional.”

At the suggestion of William Zorach, Jack Tworkov's sister, Janice Biala (1903–2000), changed her last name to the town in Poland where she was born to distinguish herself from her brother. After studying with Edwin Dickinson in Provincetown, she began to achieve success as an artist. In 1930, Biala traveled to Paris, where she met and fell in love with the well-known writer Ford Maddox Ford. Through Ford, she met many of the major artists, including Brancusi, Picasso, and Matisse. After his death in 1939 and Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Biala left Paris for New York City, where she became part of the West Village art scene.

Biala had a solo exhibition of her paintings at the Bignou Gallery in 1942. The same year, she married Daniel Brustlein. Through her brother, she met many artists, including Willem de Kooning. Biala showed regularly and received acclaim, but her work seemed to be forever associated with the Paris art world, a point that was made in a review of her 1944 solo show in the New York Times. She also encountered sexism. In a letter to ARTnews, she wrote: “lady painters; they seldom appear in your pages detached from the conjugal yoke. In my own case, I have never been given a review in your journal unaccompanied by one dear husband or another, and now the secret is out. I have a brother too!” Biala’s work evolved over time from a post-Cubist treatment of traditional subjects to abstract expressionism, to a more personal, structural, and imagery-based use of space that emphasized color relationships.

In 1933, the Alsatian-born Daniel Brustlein (1904–1996) moved to New York City, where he became known for his magazine covers and cartoons for The New Yorker under the pen name “Alain.” His successful career as an illustrator and cartoonist might have played some role in how his work in fine art was received. Considered a “painter’s painter” and a member of the School of Paris, Brustlein had his first solo show at the famed Stable Gallery, NYC, in 1955. Unlike Biala, he never fully embraced pure abstraction. Brustlein continued to do portraits of friends, landscapes and cityscapes of his travels, as well as more narrative works that combined representational elements with painterly abstraction.

This group show coincides with several others that highlight two of these artists. Robert Moskowitz has a concurrent solo exhibition at Peter Freeman, Soho. Janice Biala is included in the exhibition Americans in Paris: Artists Working in Postwar France, 1946–1962 at the Grey Art Museum, NYU. In addition, she has a survey show at Berry Campbell, Chelsea, which will include an illustrated catalogue of her work covering a 40-year period.