Southampton, NY – Tripoli Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of works by East Hampton painter Susan Tepper (1943-1991), organized with the artist’s estate, from August 20 – September 19, 2016 at 30a Jobs Lane, Southampton, New York. An exhibition catalogue with an essay by Julie Belcove will be published on the occasion and an opening reception will be held on Saturday, August 20 from 6-8 p.m.
Susan Tepper: Paintings 1978-1983, is the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work since 1989. In 2015, East Hampton’s Guild Hall publicly reintroduced paintings by Susan Tepper in their group exhibition, “Selfies and Portraits by Artists of the East End” where six of Tepper’s portraits were seen alongside works by Joan Semmel, Ahn Doung, Eric Fischl, Cindy Sherman, and Billy Sullivan, among others.
Susan Tepper: Paintings 1978-1983 includes twenty-two abstracted faces, called “Heads”: ten measure 8" x 5-3/4" and twelve measure 16" x 12". The paintings are made from a combination of acrylic, conté crayon, and collage on masonite. Most are rendered bald, their gender indeterminate. This blurring of lines between masculine and feminine is a result of the artist’s observation that, “sometimes we split right down the middle.” Some of these portraits are flat and collaged; others partly three-dimensional, their eyes fashioned from paint tubes’ metal components, their mouths built up high from acrylic paint dried, then peeled from the bottom of paint containers.
The exhibition will also feature a selection of 48” x 24” collage and acrylic paintings on masonite that the artist embarked on in 1978 as part of her “100 Women” series. Her goal was to portray, continuously and progressively, the female form in a direct frontal position. She used an acrylic palette for its immediacy, as the medium was the fastest to dry and change. In many of these works she incorporated newspaper clippings selected from The Star, National Enquirer, The Midnight Globe, and The Examiner, choosing words that retained their provocative meaning, even when taken out of context. Initially rendered as recognizably human forms, Tepper’s bodies evolved and methodically transformed into abstractions. Together, they stand like an army of female warriors confronting the viewer head-on.
Susan Tepper’s haunting portraits and expressive, often turbulent depictions of the female body in bold, vibrant colors explored identity, gender, and societal issues of the late 20th century. “I am a painter of content — images of women swept into caves of isolation,” she wrote. “I paint the story of this condition.” An ardent feminist, she rebelled against traditional expectations for women, or what she described as the “violence of the relentless pull of the ‘should’.” Tepper’s women, both expressive and aggressive, could be read as a figurative call to arms and as psychological self-portraits. “I wish to speak to all of us...who cannot decide just how much space we want to displace,” she wrote in her 40s, poignantly choosing a metaphor that could refer to body mass as well as progressive ideas.
Susan Tepper was born in Plainfield, New Jersey and raised in nearby Watchung. Avidly interested in art and theater, she entered into her freshman year at Vassar College and left to receive treatment for an emotional breakdown. After her recovery, she pursued a very focused education in art. In New York City she studied at the Art Students League, the School of Visual Art and the New York Studio School, as well as the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
In her lifetime, Tepper participated in several group exhibitions at Ashawagh Hall and Guild Hall in East Hampton and at Painting Space Gallery at PS 122 in New York City from 1984 to 1986. She had solo exhibitions in 1989 at both the Benton Gallery in Southampton and the E.M. Donahue Gallery in New York’s East Village, but otherwise rarely displayed her work publicly.
While Tepper maintained a studio in New York City, eventually East Hampton became primary to her life and work. From 1977-1991 she made work in her Georgica Road studio, and in 1985 she co-founded the East Hampton Center for Contemporary Art on Newton Lane. The non-profit venue showcased emerging artists such as Petah Coyne, Patrick Dougherty, Nene Humphrey, and Joan Semmel, among others. Tepper intentionally chose not to show her work there and tirelessly advocated for others. She assembled an advisory board consisting of notable local artists such as Alfonso Ossario. Loosely modeled after Artists Space in Manhattan, the center presented 40 solo and group exhibitions featuring more than 350 emerging artists over the course of its six-year run. It closed just prior to her death in 1991.
Susan Tepper: Paintings 1978-1983 has been co-organized by the Tripoli Gallery, a venue presenting both international artists and those with deep connections to the East End of Long Island, and by Hyphen, a New York based firm run by Andrea Glimcher that serves as an advisor and manager to artists, estates, and individuals.
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