WMU Home Frostic School of Art College of Fine Arts

Black White Color Life:
Peter Plagens and Laurie Fendrich

April 5 – May 20, 2018

Netzorg and Kerr Permanent Collection Gallery

Premiering during the spring of 2017 at Sonoma State University Art Gallery, BLACK WHITE COLOR LIFE features recent work on paper by New York-based artists Laurie Fendrich and Peter Plagens.  On view for the first time in the Midwest at Western Michigan University’s Richmond Center for Visual Arts beginning April 5 through May 20, 2018, BLACK WHITE COLOR LIFE reprises a portion of Plagens and Fendrich’s Sonoma State exhibition, positioning select works in an intimate, tête-a-tête installation in the Rose Netzorg and James Wilifred Kerr Gallery.

Just shy of a dozen compositions by each, the exhibition BLACK WHITE COLOR LIFE does not bear the typical hallmarks of artist couples who have worked side-by-side for decades as has this married pair. Neither Fendrich nor Plagens evince any suggestion of collaboration nor obvious offer of one taking the other as muse—nor have the artists set out toward any such task.  Plagens and Fendrich, however, appear to find common ground in the ways that each artist embodies an abiding awareness of texture and tone, plasticity, contrast and color compliments, and how such pictorial components sharpen, pull into focus, or release into the haziness of a dream, emerging and receding at once.  Both artists appear to partake in an unusually mindful execution of edges, which act as both the frontline, where action begins, and as boundary, behind which marks dissolve or dissipate.

BLACK WHITE COLOR LIFE materializes as a cohesive suite of works harboring clear internal dialogue, with fluid if abstract or coded conversation moving somewhat seamlessly between Fendrich’s black and white conté crayon abstractions and Plagens’ vivid mixed media collaged compositions.

About the artists: 
PETER PLAGENS (b. 1941, Dayton, OH) is a painter who’s also had a long ancillary career as a writer on art. Represented by the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York since 1974, Plagens has had regular solo exhibitions with the Gallery since then; his most recent opened in January, 2018. In addition, he’s had several museum exhibitions, including a works on paper show at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. in 1977, and a retrospective that traveled from the Fisher Museum at the University of Southern California in 2003 to Columbia College in Chicago and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio.

The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in painting (1972), Plagens has received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in painting (1985, 1977), and also an NEA Fellowship in art criticism (1973). Twice (2009, 2017) he has been a fellowship resident at the Dora Maar House in Ménerbres, France, under the auspices of the Brown Foundation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  He is the author of five books: Bruce Nauman: The True Artist (Phaidon, 2014), The Art Critic – a novel (Hol Art Books, 2012), Sunshine Muse: Modern Art on the West Coast (University of California Press, 2000; Praeger, 1974), Time for Robo – a novel (Black Heron Press, 1999), Moonlight Blues: An Artist’s Art Criticism (UMI Research Press, 1986). Plagens has written art criticism for such varied publications as Artforum, Art in America, and The Wall Street Journal.

Plagens has served full-time on the faculties of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (chairman of the Art and Art History Department), the University of Southern California, Hofstra University, and California State University, Northridge. In addition, he’s been visiting artist at Middlebury College, the University of California, Berkeley, and the San Francisco Art Institute, among other schools.

The artist’s work is in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Chase Manhattan Bank, the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Power Memorial Gallery, Sydney, Australia, the Prudential Insurance Corporation, Tawarya, Kyoto, Japan, and other institutions.

Plagens thinks, however, that any and all of the above, are secondary to what his painting looks like and what it might mean to a viewer.

Plagens lives in New York City.

LAURIE FENDRICH (b. 1948, Paterson, NJ) is an abstract painter and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient who lives and works in New York. She is a professor emerita of fine arts at Hofstra University, where she was taught for more than two decades.

Her museum exhibitions include a twenty-year retrospective, Sense and Sensibility: Laurie Fendrich Paintings and Drawings 1990-2010, at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Art Gallery at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalog with an essay by Mark Stevens. Fendrich has also been awarded an NEA Fellowship, two residencies (2009 and 2017) at the Dora Maar House in Ménerbes, France, under the auspices of the Brown Foundation at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and an artist’s residency (2012) at the Siena Art Institute in Italy. 
Fendrich’s work has been reviewed in such publications as The New York Times, Artforum, Artnews, Art in America, Artillery Magazine, ARTS Magazine, The New York Sun, The New York Observer and Partisan Magazine. The author of several essays on the role of art and artists in society, her reflections on a wide range of cultural issues have appeared regularly in The Chronicle Review of The Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications. Her influential essay, “How Critical Thinking Sabotages Painting,” appeared both in The Chronicle Review and on the widely read blog, Two Coats of Paint in 2016.

In addition, she writes short stories about art, two of which have been published, and two of which are in the pipeline. The Teddy Bears (2017) is accessible online at:  http://www.twocoatsofpaint.com/2017/06/fiction-the-teddy-bears-by-laurie-fendrich.html Currently, she and her husband, Peter Plagens, are writing a book about painting,.

Fendrich has also been on the faculty at Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, Calif., the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, in Vancouver, B.C., The Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, New York, and the San Francisco Art Institute. She has been a visiting artist at the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Texas, Austin, the University at Albany, and the Pratt Institute. She has lectured widely, including presenting the Chancellor’s Colloquium Distinguished Speaker Lecture at The University of California at Davis, in 2017.

Frostic School of Art Students and Friends of the Richmond Center Members Preview and Opening Reception, Thursday, April 5, 2018, 5 - 7pm. MyWMU.com/FriendsofRCVA