Artist Melissa Meyer with Salome by Grace Hartigan (left) and A Nod to Grace by Melissa Meyer (right)
She began her career in the early 1970’s at a time when Grace Hartigan was a powerful figure in the NY art world. Hartigan paved the road for many women painters, offering artistic inspiration and also as a role model in a male dominated field. ‘Grace & Me’ features recent paintings energized by the commission and inclusion in the exhibition ‘Inspired Encounters: Women Artists and the Legacies of Modern Art’, where she was asked to respond to a pair of Grace Hartigan paintings in the Rockefeller Collection. The resulting paintings A Nod to Grace and Times Square are currently on view at the David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center in Tarrytown, NY.
In many ways Meyer appreciates the enormity of the work done by her predecessors. When she emerged as a young artist, Hartigan was an important leader in the art world. Hartigan was the only woman to be included in the Museum of Modern Art exhibition ‘The New American Painting’ that toured eight cities in Europe in 1958-59. The Museum of Modern Art acquired Persian Jacket (1952) and River Bathers (1953), and the collector Nelson Rockefeller purchased City Life (1956) and Salome (1963) for his Kykuit estate.
Where Hartigan was known for her gestural movements with a thickly-loaded brush and a shallow surface, Meyer brings a lighter touch with loose, loopy lines in front of stacks of transparent boxes of background colors. They both exhibit the AbEx focus on the surface with decidedly different energies. Meyer’s urban paintings are vibrant with the energy and anxiety of her city. Graffiti, sky-scrapers and rock and roll have taken root where once jazz played in a place moving from post-war to boom town. Meyer understands and connects to history while forging her own path, expressing the chaos and emotions of the 21st century.
“In 1987, the legendary John Bernard Myers, an art dealer and writer who presented and published the work of many well-known New York artists and poets, and mounted the first solo shows of such New York painters as Larry Rivers, Grace Hartigan, Helen Frankenthaler, Red Grooms, Alfred Leslie and Fairfield Porter, invited me to be in a show that he was curating at the Kouros Gallery, New York, titled ‘Knowing What I Like’. At the opening, he was very excited for me to meet Grace Hartigan, who had come to the opening. But Grace was not excited to meet me. She didn’t really want to share Myer’s attention, resulting in– I would say– some rudeness.
Fast forward to visiting Kykuit at the Rockefeller Estate when I was invited to respond to something in the estate’s collection or environment as part of a commission, and I saw Grace’s paintings Salome and City Life and was struck by their beauty and power. I decided to respond to Salome with a painting called A Nod to Grace and forgive Grace for her rudeness. Also elsewhere, I came across images of another Hartigan painting, not in the collection, titled Little Salome, which inspired me to make my Little Nods series.
Currently, Grace and I are exhibiting side by side in ‘Inspired Encounters’ in the new David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center in Pocantico Hills, New York.”
Melissa Meyer, February 2023