Paintings 1970 -1995
June 7 - July 20, 2018
Kerry Schuss will present fourteen paintings dating from 1970 to 1995 by Aaron Birnbaum (1895-1998). Painted from memory with a loose, sensuous touch, Mr. Birnbaum's landscapes recall scenes from his childhood in Skole, a summer resort in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is now in Ukraine. This exhibition follows the gallery’s recent presentation of Birnbaum's landscapes curated by the painter Matt Conners at Independent 2018.
Although initially viewed as a folk artist, Birnbaum's paintings have transcended generic limitations. Rendered with loving painterly verve on various found surfaces, they depict landscapes, floral still-lifes, interiors and celestial flute players. With their affinities to artists like Albert Pinkham Ryder, Marsden Hartley and Charles Burchfield, Birnbaum's works resonate with painting by many of today’s younger artists in a time when the boundaries between so-called "Folk" and "Outsider Art" and the mainstream are undergoing dissolution.
In 1913, Aaron Birnbaum, then in his late teens, moved with his family first to the Lower East Side of Manhattan and then to Brooklyn, where he spent the rest of his life. It was not until after retiring from the garment business at age 70 that Birnbaum began painting. Recognition came after Kerry Schuss presented his paintings at the first Outsider Art Fair in 1993.
In 1995 on the occasion of his 100th year, Rita Reif wrote a feature on Birnbaum for the New York Times. "Mr. Birnbaum was one of the last of the 20th-century ''memory painters'' who, like Grandma Moses and Morris Hirschfield recorded romanticized scenes from their youth in bright colors reflecting an optimistic spirit." He continued to paint daily until felled by a stroke at age 100 1/2.
In 1997, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, CT, presented a full retrospective of his work, which Birnbaum attended at the age 102. The following year Kerry Schuss opened his gallery in Tribeca, then called KS Art, with a solo show of Birnbaum's paintings.
In the twenty years since his first gallery show, Aaron Birnbaum’s paintings are aging very well. As Birnbaum once told Schuss, "Don't worry, they are all good! And they won't go bad like eggs or butter!"