My continuing voyage of discovery among the Abstract Expressionists has lead me to the work of more women, who are, if certainly not completely unknown, then relatively obscure, despite their obvious talent. Perle Fine is one of them.
Perle Fine was born in Boston in 1908 and died in NY in 1988. In the 1930’s she studied with Hans Hofmann. This helped her “develop an intuitive approach to painting without sacrificing the structural soundness that she felt was essential to a successful composition.” (Perle Fine The Storm Departs, Helen Harrison, McCormick Gallery, Chicago) She was as interested in geometric abstraction , a la Mondrian, as in color relationships.
Ideomorphic Composition #1 1942
The landscape always served as an initial point of departure, but she was interested not in a “direct response to the surrounding environment” (Ibid.), but in an evocation of nature that revealed “an acceptance, serene and tranquil ” (Ibid). Her work, like nature, required balance, and for Fine that meant a balanced composition.
Charcoal Red (Winter) 1960
In the 1960’s she began her Cool Series which reduced both color and line to the bare essentials. She began experimenting with collage, because she wanted the surface of the canvas, the painting to have more texture.
Untitled – Cool Series 1960
This led to her use of painted wood reliefs to produce “‘paintings that had a more tactile surface, something in which the surface itself is more exciting,’while retaining a mysterious quality.” (Ibid.)
Cross Currents #2 1966
acrylic polymer on wood
She was part of the “The Club” — The avant garde New York artists of the late 40’s. Yet despite having been one the the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, and having had over 150 solo and group exhibitions, fame did not come to her. She taught generations of artists at Hofstra University, and was known for both her control of positive and negative space as well as for her intense work ethic. She continued painting until Alzheimer’s made it impossible, 3 years before her death. I think the power of her work speaks for itself.