Albert York has been one of my favorite painters since I was in art school, although I never knew very much about him. He died on Tuesday in Southampton, NY, of cancer at 80. Roberta Smith writes York’s obituary in the NY Times. “Albert York, a painter of small, mysterious landscapes who shunned the art world yet had a fervent following within it, died Tuesday in Southampton, N.Y. He was 80 and lived in Water Mill, N.Y. The cause was cancer, said Cecily Langdale of Davis & Langdale, the gallery that, first as Davis Galleries and later as Davis & Long Company, has represented him since 1963.
“In a 1995 New Yorker magazine profile of Mr. York, Calvin Tomkins said he was perhaps ‘the most highly admired unknown artist in America.’ He described a shy man who avoided anyone connected to the art world, who worked slowly and who was perpetually dissatisfied with his work, prone to scraping down his wood panels and starting over. Ms. Langdale said Mr. York usually wrapped his paintings in brown paper and mailed them to the gallery. She said that when one arrived, unannounced and ‘practically still wet,’ she often felt that Mr. York ‘had to get it out of the house in order not to destroy it….’
“Mr. York had a small solo show at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., in 1993, and his paintings appeared in numerous group exhibitions, about which Mr. Davis kept him uninformed for fear he might refuse to participate. In 1989, when the critic and curator Klaus Kertess organized an exhibition of landscape paintings by Jane Freilicher, April Gornik and Mr. York at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, he did so without meeting Mr. York and was never sure if he even saw the show, since no one knew what he looked like.
“Ms. Langdale said Mr. York did go to the show with her and Mr. Davis; she took a rare photograph of him on the occasion. In his New Yorker article, Mr. Tomkins wrote that after seeing his work at the Parrish, Mr. York said he was ‘pretty upset about what I’d been doing for these last years.’ Robert Kulicke offered an explanation in the New Yorker piece: ‘What Al doesn’t understand is that in art you never hit what you’re aiming at, but the difference may not be downward.’” Read more.
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