Victoria Miro announces its representation of the Milton Avery Estate. One of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, Milton Avery is celebrated for his luminous paintings of landscapes, figures and still lifes, which balance a distillation of form with free, vigorous brushwork and lyrical colour.
A quality of settled calm confidence underlies his work and this exhibition features 16 paintings and works on paper. It is the first exhibition to be held in London for a decade. The works included in the exhibition span more than 30 years of enchanted lyricism and painterly deftness, and they confirm Avery as one of the under-regarded heroes of American modernism.
Consider Wader (1963), a painting made in Avery's eighth decade. A blonde-haired woman in a red bikini walks towards the viewer, standing calf-deep in a gently running river which recedes to an invisible vanishing point behind her back. Behind her, the wooded mountains of the Catskills rise up against a red sky. It is an image of luminous energy and longing, at once dreamy and commonplace. It is also a masterpiece of improvised variety in mark-making: the surface of the water is built up in thick, loose brushstrokes, the river's banks are decisively marked in long lines, and the texture of the canvas board is liberally allowed to show through the muted layer of red that makes up the sky, so that form and matter seem to be magically at one.
Morning Sky (1962)
Although the works in the exhibition take the human figure, landscape or still-life as their point of departure, several of them come close to abstraction. In Morning Sky (1962), a painting made during one of Avery's summers spent in Provincetown in the company of Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Adolph Gottlieb, the nature of Avery's influence on the younger painters is clear, as beach and sea represented on the canvas resolve into broad fields of colour, with a muted pink butting onto a serenely stormy dark blue.