Jill Krementz covers Jane Freilicher

Jane Freilicher photographed by Jill Krementz on April 13, 2013 at Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

"My poet friends didn't influence me directly with their work ... there's a sympathetic vibration, a natural syntax — a lack of pomposity or heavy symbolism — and something to do with intimism, an intimate kind of expression."
— Jane Freilicher
Jane Freilicher
Painter Among Poets
Tibor de Nagy Gallery
April 13-June 14, 2013

Entrance to Tibor de Nagy Gallery at 724 Fifth Avenue, just south of 57th Street.
Jane Freilicher is still going strong at 88 with a new solo show at Tibor de Nagy Gallery. On view are 30 works: oil paintings, pastels and works on paper rendered in graphite, pen, and pencil.

It is not a coincidence that the exhibition coincides with National Poetry Month. Ms. Freilicher's friendships with poets Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, and John Ashbery date back to the early '50s when they all hung out together in Manhattan and in Long Island. If they had a muse it was Jane who played a pivotal role in their lives.

Also on view in several tabletop vitrines are letters, photographs and book covers, many of which display great wit. In the back room there are two looped videos made in 1950 and 1954 by Rudy Burckhardt featuring Freilicher, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch and Larry Rivers.

It was not surprising that the show's Saturday afternoon opening was packed with the artist's well wishers and collectors including her daughter Lizzie Hazan, Ned Rorem, and John Ashbery, New Yorker writer Alex Ross, and actor Richard Thomas.
Entrance to the Gallery: Jane Freilicher and John Ashbery are shown in a huge photograph taken by Walter Silver in 1952. That was 61 years ago!
Parts of a World, 1987
oil on linen
NFS
Peonies, 1989
oil on paper
Private Collection
Jimmy Schuyler, 1965
oil on canvas
Portrait of Kenneth Koch, c. 1966
oil on linen
private collection

This is the first exhibition to link Jane Freilicher with the poets of her generation.
Jane Freilicher, Eric Brown, and Alex Ross.

Eric Brown is co-owner of the gallery. Alex Ross has been The New Yorker's music critic for 20 years. "I'm working on a book for FSG called Wagnerism," he told me. "It's about the composer's intellectual life in Germany."

Mr. Ross wrote the catalogue for one of Ms. Freilicher's previous exhibitions at Tibor.

Mr. Ross to Ms. Freilicher: "This is such a nice overview of your paintings without being too heavy handed.

Jane Freilicher's reply to Mr. Ross: "You mean the flame hasn't burnt out yet?"
Andrew Arnot, who with Eric, is co-owner of Tibor.

They have worked together for over 22 years.
Michelle Jaffé, Andrew's wife, is a sculptor.

Her works incorporating sound are in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fashion Institute of Technology, and Museé de la Mode et du Costume in Paris.
Andrea Wells, Director of Tibor de Nagy. Sofia Wells, age 9 months.
Three generations: Martha Bonilla with her granddaughter Sofia Wells (center) and her daughter Andrea Wells.
Donna Sesee with Jane Freilicher. Ms. Sesee, the daughter of abstract expressionist Grace Hartigan (1922-2008), designs jewelry and is a nursery school teacher on Princeton's campus. Hartigan's work, as well as that of her friends Larry Rivers, Helen Frankenthaler, and Frank O'Hara was frequently exhibited at Tibor in the 1950s.
The cover photograph of exhibition catalogue. The 100-page book was available for display only, but will be on sale this week at the Gallery ($40).
A few layouts from the "must-have" catalogue.

Jane Freilicher and Frank O'Hara were very close.
The inscription by Frank O'Hara beneath his photograph on the right reads: "I think that perhaps Jane Freilicher is really Helen Gahangan Douglas, after all."

The reference in the Douglas inscription was to the former movie actress and then Congresswoman from California. Douglas ran against Nixon for the Senate and she was the one who coined the nickname "Tricky Dick."

Freilicher and the poets made many inside jokes often referencing figures in popular culture at the time.

All of these letters, manuscripts are being reproduced and exhibited for the first time.
The O'Hara poem in the shape of a woman was actually a poem/portrait of Freilicher.
Poet James Schuyler.
And, of course, John Ashbery.
Another letter from Ashbery.

Jane's paintings are sprinkled throughout.
A page of postcards sent from Jane to her pals.
Susan and Bart Winokur live in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and came into the city for the opening. They own one of Jane's flower paintings. Grid Modercea, from Transylvania, is the author of a novel, The Cork.
Attorney John Walsh. "I was the lawyer for Jane and that whole group for many years." Andrew Arnot and Eric Brown.
Artist Jean Wetta once owned several galleries in Texas, and it was there that she showed Jane Freilicher's work.

Ms. Wetta was one of the first gallerists to exhibit the work of Rackstraw Downes.
Frank Wetta is a senior fellow in the Department of History at Kean University.

Professor Wetta is the author of The Louisiana Scalawags: Politics, Race, and Terrorism during the Civil War.

The Wettas live in New Jersey.
Study in Blue and Gray, 2011
oil on canvas
Nude on a Green Blanket, 1967
oil on linen
Painter in the Studio, 1987
oil on canvas
Jane Freilicher enjoying herself at the opening reception.
Pierrot and Peonies, 2007
oil on linen
Collection of Deborah S. Pease & promised gift to Parrish Art Museum
Turnaround, 1965
oil on canvas
House and Telephone Pole, c. 1963
charcoal on paper
The Car, 1963
oil on linen
Private Collection
Peonies, 1965
oil on canvas
Private Collection
Frank O'Hara, not dated
pen and ink on paper
John Ashbery, c. 1954
graphite on paper
Private Collection
Maxine Groffsky and her husband Win Knowlton.

Groffsky was a longtime editor of The Paris Review and then a literary agent.
"When I sold my first big novel, I think it was Sue Miller's, I went out an bought a painting by Jane Freilicher."

Now retired Ms. Goffsky is "happily taking ballroom dancing lessons with a marvelous dancing teacher."

Mr. Knowlton was the CEO of Harper & Row for many years. He figures he owns half a Freilicher.
Dr. Jerry Barondess and Elaine Krogius are good friends of Jane's.

Dr. Barondess is the President Emeritus of the American College of Physicians.
Poet Eugene Richie with Early New York Evening, a 1954 oil painting that appeared on the cover of his book, Island Lights, published in 1998 by Painted Leaf Press.
Henry Ford's Dunes, 1961
oil on canvas
Private Collection
Writer Maggie Paley and artist Sarah Plimpton (George's sister). Terry Moloney is a journalist for webzine TimesSquare.com.
Mimi Gross is a New York City artist who works in many mediums. She has grown up in the art world as she is the daughter of Chaim Gross and was once married to the artist Red Grooms.

Simon Pettet described himself as "a lyric poet and author of Hearth: Collected Poems.

He made two books with the late Rudy Burckhardt.
Mimi Gross is the proud grandmother of these pretty girls.
Photographer, poet, and collagist Star Black.
Letters, photographs, and ephemera in one of several glass-topped vitrines.
Paintings for Jane from Joe Brainard celebrating the expected birth of her daughter Elizabeth.
Lizzie Hazan, daughter of Jane Freilicher. An abstract painter, Hazan shows at Janet Kurnatowski Gallery. Beth Hicks Kean and Lizzie Hazan. Mrs. Kean is Lizzie's mother-in-law. She's also the sister of Tom Kean, former governor of New Jersey and once the head of Drew University.
Pianist Katherine Addleman plays concerts in Long Island and New Jersey. Katherine Addleman and Jane Freilicher.
Actor Richard Thomas. "I've just finished the first season of The Americans on FX and am guesting on an episode of Law and Order: SVU. Richard and Georgina Thomas have raised a blended family of 7 children. Georgina used to be in the art business in Sante Fe.

"We have two of Jane's paintings. We just think she's one-off. If you like abstraction and figurative painting you get both in one package."
Poet John Ashbery arrives.

One of Jane's oldest friends and a frequent subject of her paintings, Ashbery has written the introduction to the exhibition catalogue.
Portrait of John Ashbery, c. 1968
Private Collection
John Ashbery photographed by Jill Krementz on February 8, 1975 in his Chelsea apartment.

On the wall: The Painting Table, a 1954 still life by Jane Freilicher.
David Kermani is John Ashbery's husband. On the left is Jane Kitselman, a cellist who used to play in quartets; on the right is Anne Dunn, a painter.
Composer Ned Rorem. Ned Rorem, Eric Brown, and John Ashbery.

Mr. Ashbery won the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2011. In late 2012, he published a new book of poems titled Quick Question. It is dedicated to Jane Freilicher.
Following the opening, a small dinner party for Jane Freilicher and her friends and family was held in the gallery.
6 p.m.: Two very good friends, side by side, in the back office.

To strain after innovation, to worry about being 'on the cutting edge' — a phrase I hate — reflects concern for a place in history or for one's career rather than for the authenticity of one's own painting.

— Jane Freilicher
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.