Catalogue Essay: Marella Consolini, Curator, Knoedler Gallery, Project Space
When I first looked at Sam Glankoff’s paintings 10 years ago I found it hard to believe that they were made in the 1970s by a man in his 80s. They are timeless. Starting in that decade, Glankoff was free to focus solely on his painting, and it is profoundly mature work—elemental, archaic shapes that represent him fully. These pictures move into the region of the sublime, unencumbered by trends or any of the many “movements” that surfaced over the course of his career. It is remarkable that he worked during some of the most fertile periods in American painting, and yet the pictures bear no identifying stamp of those times, they are uniquely his.
Sam Glankoff would be 114 years old this year. From the time he turned his back on the art world in his early 30s until 6 months before he died at age 87, he received no critical or commercial recognition for his art, because he didn’t put himself in its path. Glankoff was a true artist–making art is what he did; he was indifferent to the world’s response. Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest–if we aren’t there to look, to show, to discuss, to buy, is it “real”? Is it “good”? Is it up to us to qualify and validate this man’s art? No, these pictures don’t need us; they stand beautifully, regally and independently on their own.
I am delighted to show Sam Glankoff’s paintings in Knoedler’s Project Space. Though Glankoff is not a living artist, this show fits perfectly with the Project Space’s mission to offer exhibition opportunities to under-recognized artists. And the time is right: scholars are casting a fresh eye on artists previously excluded from the canon of 20th century art history who are now being acknowledged for their significant contributions. It has been a privilege to work on this exhibition with Wendy Snyder, Director of the Sam Glankoff Collection. Wendy has steered Glankoff soundly into the 21st century, and I feel certain that Sam is watching, with fascinated horror, as we bring his extraordinary pictures more prominently into view.