At first glance, the most recent exhibit at SAMSØÑ presents visitors with seemingly disparate bodies of work. On one wall hangs a collection of modernist paintings depicting scenes of country life, all in the same muted palette, while across the gallery, fanciful tableaux of vividly colorful wildlife confront their more subdued neighbors. Running down the center of the space, dividing the two opposing walls, stands a series of stately and composed bronze sculptures.
Take a moment and you’ll notice certain motifs repeated throughout the gallery; similarities in color, composition and, most evidently, subject matter begin to emerge. While the work on display has three distinctive, individual personalities, a subtle thread connects it all.
The exhibit includes work spanning nearly a century, dating from the 1920s all the way up to 2013, and centers around the artistic talent of the Zorach family. MARGUERITE ZORACH (a native Californian with an affinity for European art and travel), WILLIAM ZORACH (a Lithuanian-born, Cleveland-raised painter and sculptor) and DAHLOV IPCAR (a contemporary painter and children’s book illustrator) have established a Coppola-esque legacy within the world of modern art.
The collaborative duo Marguerite and William brought their European tastes back from Paris’s ACADÉMIE DE LA PALETTE to the New York art scene via painting, sculpture and textile art. They raised their children in New York City, spending their summers on a farm in southern Maine. Each environment, both metropolitan and rural, informed the couple’s artistic style, as well as that of their daughter. At age ninety-eight, Dahlov resides and works in Maine and continues her parents’ appreciation for nature and wildlife in her own vibrant and colorful paintings.
This close-knit family eschewed hiring professional models and instead drew inspiration from their everyday life, using their friends, animals on the farm or at a city zoo, and even each other as subjects. Dahlov is depicted in both her mother’s oil paintings and her father’s sculptures. Aunt Mary Eliza, a midwife, sat for both William and Marguerite, though their interpretations of her vary wildly. In Marguerite’s The Old Hound Dog, the family pet curls into the folds of a colorful patchwork quilt, the patterns of which are repeated in Dahlov’s geometric dreamscapes. A similar (though younger-looking) canine serves as the subject for William’s bronze sculpture Granite Hound.
The work on view documents the evolution of American modernism through each family member’s individual contributions to the movement. Though it was Marguerite who, with her wildly avant-garde artistic style and fascination with Fauvism, initially challenged William’s academic inclinations, it is her husband who has received the most attention for his contributions to the modernist art movement. By representing all three artists in the exhibit, curator and gallery director CAMILO ALVAREZ hopes to cultivate respect institutionally for the female members of the Zorach family.
Remarkably, this is the first time Marguerite, Dahlov and William have been shown together, allowing the works to respond to one another in provocative new ways. Seen collectively, the work of the Zorachs elicits a conversation about the marked shared traits and poignant differences that characterize all familial relationships, encouraging viewers to contemplate the importance of their own anecdotal histories and inherited values.
First Friday: 7/10, 6-8pm | On view: 6/19 – 8/22
Samsøñ Projects | 450 Harrison Ave | Boston, MA