Double Portrait: Mimi Gross and Marcia Marcus

May 23 – July 27, 2019

In Conversation: Mimi Gross, Kate Prendergast, Susan Bee, and Anne Monahan
June 6, 2019 at 6pm

Double Portrait: Mimi Gross and Marcia Marcus
presents an overview of the work of these two pioneering figurative artists, both of whom lived and worked in Lower Manhattan from the 1950s on. The exhibition includes 28 works made between 1958 and 2012.

Both Mimi Gross (b. 1940) and Marcia Marcus (b. 1928) developed innovative approaches to painting and portraiture, experimenting with color and pattern. Marcus’ silhouetted figures, flattened forms, and heightened attention to fashion and costume create a counterpoint to Gross’ more expressionistic, densely colored and textured images. Their works depict a who’s-who of shared friends, family, artists, writers, and dancers. In later years, Marcus frequently created self-portraits with mythological overtones and classicizing themes, while Gross explored her continuing engagement with art history.

Marcus and Gross’ paths crisscrossed, overlapping during summers in Provincetown, MA, on their Italian sojourns, and in downtown New York, where both were central figures in the art scene. Marcus studied at Cooper Union in the early 50s and then attended the Art Students League. In 1960, she showed a remarkable series of self-portraits at the Delancey Street Museum, an alternative space co-founded by Red Grooms. Marcus went on to show her work at other notable galleries of the period, including ACA Galleries, Alan Gallery, March Gallery, Stable Gallery, and Zabriskie Gallery.

Gross, the daughter of Renee and Chaim Gross, the noted sculptor, studied art at Bard College from 1957-1959, following which she traveled to Europe, where she joined her friend Katharine Kean (K.K.), a portrait of whom in brightly patterned dress is featured in the exhibition. That summer of 1960 she attended the summer painting school of Oskar Kokoschka (the fabled Austrian expressionistic painter) in Salzburg and then returned to Florence. There she was joined by Grooms (whom she had first met in Provincetown). They traveled extensively together and returned in Florence in February 1961, where they re-connected with Marcus, who had also moved to Florence with her family for an extended stay. The friends spent time together and a significant work of Marcus’ from the period, Florentine Landscape (1961), is on loan to the exhibition and features a figure (Grooms) lying on his side in a walled garden with head propped in hand, wearing a turban. Marcus also later painted the Gross-Grooms family, and in turn Gross painted Marcia’s children. Grooms and Gross would marry and become collaborators (until 1976), best known for large-scale installations. Gross simultaneously developed and became recognized for her own ongoing painting, installation, and costume design work.

While both women were prominent figures in the New York art world of the 1960s and 70s, their work was overlooked in later years. Recent investigations, such as this one, re-examine the significant work and critical roles of these women.

Above Images:

Marcia Marcus
Self Portrait as Athena, 1973
Oil and gold leaf on canvas
58 x 36 inches
© 2019 Marcia Marcus, New York. Courtesy Eric Firestone Gallery.

Mimi Gross
Genny’s Anatomy Class: After Rembrandt’s ‘Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,’ 2009-2012
Oil on canvas
66 inches x 7 feet
© 2019 Mimi Gross / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. / Courtesy Eric Firestone Gallery.