Eric Firestone Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition Reuben Kadish: Earth Mothers, a major survey on the significant postwar American sculptor and painter. With this exhibition, the gallery also announces exclusive representation of the Reuben Kadish Foundation. The exhibition is curated in collaboration with the Reuben Kadish Foundation and its chairman, Judd Tully.
On view will be painting and sculpture by Reuben Kadish from the 1940s through the 1980s. It will be presented in an immersive exhibition design conceived by Volfram Art & Design. This is the first comprehensive survey of Kadish’s work in New York City since a 1985 show at the Artists' Choice Museum. Included will be nearly 100 small, whimsical bronze figurines; the rare extant 1940s paintings; expressionist figurative sculptures of the 1950s and 60s; wall reliefs; monotypes depicting fantastical hybrid creatures; and monumental memorial heads of the 1980s. Kadish’s bronze sculptures are unique, made by lost-wax casting.
After a studio fire in the late 1940s destroyed all but a few of his paintings, Reuben Kadish (1913–1992) stopped painting and transformed himself into a sculptor. His deeply scored terracotta and bronze sculptures are reflective of his Abstract Expressionist roots, even though they represent figures and heads. They are intense and haunting works, evoking Kadish’s ongoing concern with social justice, humanitarian issues, war crimes, and genocide. Rugged and monumental works, they feel as ancient as they are modern—reflecting a universal human condition and suggesting archeological discovery. Kadish has a singular and significant voice in the history of postwar American art.
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Reuben Kadish Harlan Phillips, Archives of American Art, 1964
What I learned about technique, I learned after I left [David Alfaro Siqueiros]. I have a natural bent, let's say, to pick up technical solutions. I can do things with my hands. I know where to go to find the right book to get the right formula ... as far as I'm concerned, there is no mystery about techniques. Most of the things that we have done came out of the Stone Age. Bronze casting came out of the Stone Age... so it has been around for many thousands of years, including fresco painting.
- Reuben Kadish
Mr. Kadish, who was born in Chicago on Jan. 29, 1913, and reared in Los Angeles, started his career as a painter, studying with theWest Coast painter Lorser Feitelson while still a teenager. While attending the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, he formed close friendships with Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston, who would become Abstract Expressionists. Mr. Kadish's sculpture, made in either terra cotta or bronze, always had a strong Expressionist slant, but his interests in the figure and in social content kept his art representational. Collaborations on murals in 1933, Mr. Kadish apprenticed briefly as a fresco painter to David Alfaro Siqueiros, the Mexican muralist, and thereafter collaborated with Mr. Guston on murals in California and Mexico. While in Mexico, the Aztec sculpture of ancient Mexico made an indelible impression on him, as did the sculpture of India, which he encountered while working in Asia in the Army Artist Unit in the last two years of World War II. After the war, he moved to New York City. In 1946, to support his family, he bought a dairy farm in Vernon, which he operated for 10 years. During this period, he stopped painting and eventually took up sculpture. In 1961, he had his first one-man show in New York City and began teaching art at Cooper Union.
- Roberta Smith
During the 60’s, Kadish’s wife, Barbara Weeks Kadish, actively pursued her life-long passion for archaeology at New York University, eventually heading NYU’s Pre-History Dig at Aphrodisias in Southwestern Turkey.
Julian, the youngest of their three sons, accompanied Barbara to Turkey for several of her summer expeditionary digs.
In 1962, Dan Kadish, the couple’s oldest son, married Philip Guston’s daughter, Musa Jane Guston.
Kadish created an impressive oeuvre of deeply scored terra cotta and bronze sculpture that was viscerally reflective of his Abstract Expressionist roots and hammered out a respectable exhibition career. It included stints with the Elaine Poindexter Gallery and Grace Borgenicht Gallery as well as two retrospective exhibitions at the Artists’ Choice Museum in SoHo (1985) and the New Jersey State Museum (1990).
But for a variety of complex reasons, some of it a result of his decidedly prickly and often combative manner, Kadish made a far larger impact on a generation of art students who passed through the great hall of Cooper Union than his career in the New York art world.
Judd Tully, Chairman, Reuben Kadish Art Foundation
Kadish is represented in public collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. In addition to the retrospective at the Artists Choice Museum, Kadish was the subject of solo exhibitions at the New Jersey State Museum (1990); the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center (2004); and the University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington (2018).