exhibition inspired by ukrainian artist john graham occupies his own brooklyn heights home

exhibition inspired by ukrainian artist john graham occupies his own brooklyn heights home

john graham comes home

 

Artist John Graham, a pivotal figure in the mid-20th century New York scene, is the subject of a new exhibition at his historic Brooklyn townhouse at 1 Sidney Place. The show explores Graham’s artistic legacy within his former home on the tree-lined, cobblestone streets of Brooklyn Heights. Curated by Glenn Adamson and Severin Delfs of the Hollis Taggart Gallery, the exhibition is presented by The Brooklyn Home Company (TBHCo) following the townhouse’s thoughtful restoration. Now on view, it will run until April 30, 2024 to uncover a unique perspective on the artist’s life and work.

 

Graham was, in fact, one of the great characters of his age,’ writes curator Glenn Adamson in an essay on the occasion of the exhibition. The curator notes that Graham’s writings mark the foundational text of Abstract Expressionism. ‘It is of course extremely satisfying to present Graham’s work in the context of his own home, indeed, the place where he lived when his cultural currency was at its apex.’

john graham artistJohn Graham, Poussin m’Instruit, 1944 | images © Matthew Williams

 

 

the ukrainian-american artist’s multifaceted life

 

Born in 1886, John Graham was more than just a painter, the Ukrainian-born artist had worn many hats throughout his career, from writing, collecting, and political advocacy. Describing his life, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) recalls his aristocratic childhood in Kiev to efforts joining counter-revolutionaries in Crimea following a brief imprisonment after the Russian revolution. It wasn’t until 1920 that Graham moved to New York City and studied art, changing his name from Ivan Gratianovich Dombrowski to John Graham in 1927. It was in 1929 that the artist opened his first American solo show in Washington D.C. before finally landing in his Brooklyn Heights townhouse at 1 Sidney Place in the 1930s.

john graham artist
John Chamberlain, Golden Smell, 1973

 

 

graham’s enduring legacy displayed in brooklyn heights

 

The exhibition features two major paintings by artist John Graham: ‘White Fish‘ (1930), a work that reflects his deep engagement with Picasso’s Cubist innovations, and ‘Poussin m’Instruit‘ (1944), a significant piece that marks his shift towards Neoclassicism. His artistic style shifted between abstraction and figuration, and his work reflected a deep engagement with the artistic movements of his time, along with influential artists including Dorothy Dehner and Willem de Kooning.

 

While Graham’s own works are central to the exhibition, it doesn’t stop there. The curators have included a selection of Graham’s rarely-seen drawings, courtesy of Forum Gallery, which offer a glimpse into his creative process and artistic exploration. More importantly, the exhibition seeks to expand the conversation around Graham’s influence. Works by his contemporaries, including Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Richard Pousette-Dart, and Norman Carton, are displayed alongside his own pieces. A special highlight is the inclusion of sculptures by John Chamberlain, whose practice resonated with Graham’s emphasis on spatial awareness and improvisation.

john graham artist
Norman Carton, Untitled #685, circa 1954 (left), Norman Carton, Turkey In the Straw #728, circa 1955 (right)

 

 

The exhibition at 1 Sidney Place underscores the enduring significance of Abstract Expressionism and its many tributaries in American art, including works by Hollis Heichemer and Elizabeth Cooper. The presence of Fitzhugh Karol and Justine Otto‘s works bridge the gap between Graham’s era and the present, demonstrating how contemporary artists grapple with and reimagine the artistic narratives of the past. Thus, the show highlights the diverse ways artists continue to engage with the formal and conceptual ideas that emerged in the mid-20th century.

 

The exhibition is a homecoming. It brings Graham’s work back to the space where it was created, surrounded by the artistic voices that echo his own. While Graham himself is no longer here, the exhibition is a reminder of his legacy and the vitality of the artistic movements he helped to shape. As Adamson quotes from Graham’s own writings, ‘greatness is a phenomenon, a state, it persists, regardless.’

john graham artist
Hayoon Jay Lee, 100 Visions, 2022 (left), Hayoon Jay Lee, In a Minute, 2022 (right)

exhibition inspired by ukrainian artist john graham occupies his own brooklyn heights home
John Chamberlain, Pollo Prima Vera, 1982

sidney-place-john-graham-exhibition-brooklyn-heights-designboom-06a

Justine Otto, Multiple Harpist, 2022 (left), Fitzhugh Karol, Friendship, 2023 (wooden sculpture, center), Justine Otto, The Eternal Song, 2020 (right)

exhibition inspired by ukrainian artist john graham occupies his own brooklyn heights homeJohn Graham, ‘White Fish‘ (1930)

exhibition inspired by ukrainian artist john graham occupies his own brooklyn heights home
Richard Pousette-Dart, Untitled, 1940–42 (left), Richard Pousette-Dart, Small Cathedral, 1979 (right)

sidney-place-john-graham-exhibition-brooklyn-heights-designboom-08a

pencil on paper portraits by John D. Graham, 1940

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