Spotlight: Clinton Hill
Frieze New York
May 3 – 6, 2018
VIP preview: May 2, 2018
Royale Projects is pleased to announce a solo presentation of Clinton Hill at Frieze New York, May 3 – 6, 2018. The booth will consist entirely of unseen paintings, which are all part of a substantial body of work from the 1960s that has only recently been rediscovered. Despite a significant career stretching from the 1950s to his death in 2003, very few of Hill’s works from the 1960s have ever been on public display. This presentation will contribute to the reappraisal of Clinton Hill as one of the most important voices in American abstraction and follows a major survey exhibition of the artist’s work, at the Georgia Museum of Art from January to March 2018.
Clinton Hill (1922–2003) was an American abstract artist who was a lesser known member of the New York School. A contemporary of Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, and Kenneth Noland, he was a good friend and assistant to Mark Rothko and mentored by John Ferren. His close friends included Man Ray, Jay DeFeo, George Maciunas, Pat Adams, Sergio Tosi and Barbara Chase-Riboud, and he contributed annually to the exhibitions of the American Abstract Artists group.
Hill worked across paint, gouache, collage, printmaking and drawing and shares much with Color Field painting. His style is characterized by an idiosyncratic use of color, the marrying of plane and solid geometry, and a surface tactility that owed much to his pioneering part in the so-called ‘paper revolution’ of the 1970s. The works to be displayed at Frieze New York are from a period of intense activity in the 1960s, which saw a significant increase in Hill’s large scale use of acrylics, as well as an incorporation of Minimalist influences. Two paintings which will form part of the presentation particularly highlight Hill’s abstraction, indicative of the 1960s’ Postpainterly mode. Both from 1965, 13 and Untitled also exhibit the Washington Color Painters’ use of a bright color palette, soak-staining and Hard-edge painting acrylic on raw canvas.
His works on paper from the period reveal an ambivalent engagement with the political realities of the 1960s. The collage works make use of newspaper and magazine references to the Vietnam War and to Second-wave feminism, amongst other pertinent topics, and even incorporate campaign posters for the election to the Senate of Republican candidate Kenneth Keating.
Born in rural Idaho, the American West had an enduring impact on Clinton Hill’s artistic practice, as did his contact with nearby Native American settlements from which he took inspiration in pattern and design. In the 1940s he studied Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Oregon before being called up for military service in 1943, serving as a commander of a minesweeper in the Pacific.
It was there that he met his long term partner Allen Tran, with whom he would spend the rest of his life. After the war, and well before the Stonewall Riots, Tran and Hill settled together in downtown New York, though they also travelled widely, with Hill studying in Paris and Florence, as well as visiting India, in the 1950s. In the 1960s family illness took Hill to Phoenix, where he had a short-lived but successful career in theatre and music. Music was an enduring influence on his work and this can be seen in his cadent use of line and shape, as well as the repeated motif of the tuning fork in much of his work.
Clinton Hill’s work is held in notable public collections globally, including British Museum, London; Guggenheim Museum, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; and V&A, London.
Marilyn Pearl Loesberg, a trustee of the Clinton Hill/Allen Tran Foundation and the gallerist who represented Hill following his early years with Zabriskie Gallery, described the rediscovery of the 1960s works:
“13 years after Clinton Hill’s death, the Foundation finally decided to close its storage facility. Tucked in a corner were two rolls wrapped in paper. We had no idea what they were so we opened them and – wow! There, rolled up, were these gorgeous paintings from the 1960s. We could hardly believe our eyes. Color-saturated, lightinfused, magical paintings that no one knew existed.”
William Eiland, director of the Georgia Museum of Art, has said of the relationship between Hill and DeFeo:
“The professional and personal linkage between Hill and DeFeo resides in her antipathy to the ‘hierarchy of material,’ to her penchant for cutting-edge experimentation, to their shared western origins. Her best known work is The Rose, a massive sculpture, now at the Whitney Museum of American Art, that occupied her on-and-off for many years and can be seen as a metaphor for the passion she shared with Hill for pushing the limits of material, for persistent investigation, for stubborn perseverance, and for commitment to art as life and life as art.”
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Notes to editors
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Image credit: Clinton Hill, 13, 1965, Acrylic on canvas, 59 1/2” x 54 1/8”, Courtesy Royale Projects, Los Angeles
About Royale Projects
Royale Projects, established in 2008, focuses on the history and continuing advancement of abstraction in painting and sculpture, as well as on leading edge artists who find their roots in Conceptualism. Royale Projects maintains a rigorous schedule of solo and group exhibitions as well as site-responsive projects. The gallery debuted previously unseen works by Helen Pashgian, one of the innovators of the California Light & Space movement, and had the honor of presenting the last new works by Dennis Oppenheim. Royale Projects collaborated with Andrea Zittel’s High Desert Test Sites to produce ‘Trajectory Object c. 2000-2050’ and the accompanying artist book by Karen Lofgren, as well as the career-defining project ‘Lucid Stead’ by Phillip K. Smith III, both in Joshua Tree, California. Royale Projects opened its downtown Los Angeles space with a survey exhibition of Ken Lum and was most recently a participating gallery in The Getty’s ‘Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA’, exhibiting new work by Ruben Ortiz Torres.