"Early Paintings and Drawings," Valerie Carberry Gallery, through Jun 3.
Born in 1900, Jack Tworkov was Willem de Kooning’s senior by four years. It’s worth keeping this in mind when assessing this illuminating exhibition of Tworkov’s work done prior to his “conversion” in the late 1940s to Abstract Expressionism.
From 1948 to 1955, Tworkov occupied a studio next to De Kooning in New York, and is typically identified as a “disciple” of the slightly younger artist. However, several of the works here demonstrate that it was a far more mutual exchange that began much earlier, around the time that both artists met while working in the easel division of the WPA Federal Art Project. For example, Seated Woman (Wally)—a mildly fragmented painting of Tworkov’s future wife—predates De Kooning’s anxious paintings of incomplete men by a few momentous years.
From the folksy yet spatially complicated Fisherman’s Family to the forward-looking yet stubbornly representational Untitled (Still Life with Yellow and Blue Pitcher), it is evident that Tworkov shared, to some degree, De Kooning’s perpetual struggles with what he called a “no-environment” between figuration and abstraction. It is, of course, matters of degree that usually settle the dust of what is considered to be major and what is not. Tworkov may not have been a major artist, but the work from the breadth of his career (he died in 1982) is significant and worth further rediscovery.—Terry R. Myers