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Betty Parsons

Heated Sky

February 27 – May 30, 2020

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky, Installation view

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky

Installation view

Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY (2020)

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky, Installation view

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky

Installation view

Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY (2020)

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky, Installation view

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky

Installation view

Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY (2020)

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky, Installation view

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky

Installation view

Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY (2020)

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky, Installation view

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky

Installation view

Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY (2020)

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky, Installation view

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky

Installation view

Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY (2020)

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky, Installation view

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky

Installation view

Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY (2020)

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky, Installation view

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky

Installation view

Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY (2020)

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky, Installation view

Betty Parsons: Heated Sky

Installation view

Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY (2020)

Untitled, 1976, Acrylic on paper

Untitled, 1976

Acrylic on paper

23.75h x 18w in (60.33h x 45.72w cm)

Betty Parsons, Heated Sky, 1976

Betty Parsons

Heated Sky, 1976

Acrylic on paper

24h x 20.81w x 1.63d in (60.96h x 52.86w x 4.13d cm)

Betty Parsons Untitled, c.1976

Betty Parsons
Untitled, c.1976
Gouache on paper
23.25h x 18w in (59.06h x 45.72w cm)

Betty Parsons, Untitled, c. 1976

Betty Parsons

Untitled, c. 1976

Acrylic on paper

24h x 19w x 1.5d in (60.96h x 48.26w x 3.81d cm)

June 1971, 1971, Acrylic on canvas

June 1971, 1971

Acrylic on canvas

53.5h x 65.75w in (135.89h x 167.01w cm)

Early Light, 1965, Acrylic on canvas

Early Light, 1965

Acrylic on canvas

30.75h x 25.63w in (78.11h x 65.09w cm)

Untitled, c.1970, Acrylic on canvas

Untitled, c.1970

Acrylic on canvas

40h x 49w in (101.6h x 124.46w cm)

Fog, c.1970, Acrylic on canvas

Fog, c.1970

Acrylic on canvas

30h x 24.25w in (76.2h x 61.6w cm)

Untitled, c.1967, Acrylic on canvas

Untitled, c.1967

Acrylic on canvas

48.75h x 16.75w in (123.83h x 42.55w cm)

Winter Southold, 1966, Acrylic on canvas

Winter Southold, 1966

Acrylic on canvas

29h x 29w in (73.66h x 73.66w cm)

Pasture, 1963, Acrylic on canvas

Pasture, 1963

Acrylic on canvas

25h x 30w in (63.50h x 76.20w cm)

Early Morning, 1967, Acrylic on canvas

Early Morning, 1967

Acrylic on canvas

50.5h x 48.5w in (128.27h x 123.19w cm)

Untitled, c.1967, Acrylic on canvas

Untitled, c.1967

Acrylic on canvas

24h x 45.5w in (60.96h x 115.57w cm)

Press Release

Alexander Gray Associates presents its second exhibition of works by Betty Parsons (1900–1982), Heated Sky. The paintings and works on paper from the height of Parsons’ engagement with abstraction from the 1960s to mid-1970s foreground the artist’s attunement to nature and the landscape. Parsons’ keen observation of the natural world was the ground for compositional methods ranging from loose biomorphism to geometric order, always featuring a dynamic sense of color.

Inspired by a visit to the 1913 Armory Show in New York, Parsons determined to become an artist from a young age, undertaking training in figurative sculpture and later watercolor. In 1947, one year after founding the Betty Parsons Gallery, she made her first abstract painting, thereby initiating a transformative new direction that would engage her for the next 35 years.

The completion of Parsons’ light-filled studio in Southold, NY, in 1960 ushered in a decade of work characterized by a simplification of form and color. Designed by architect and artist Tony Smith and overlooking the Long Island Sound, it fast became the artist’s regular weekend retreat and the site of concentrated art-making. In paintings such as Pasture (1963), Parsons combined a monochromatic field of color with free-floating island-like shapes in colors both analogous and complementary. Works from later in the decade introduced line-based compositions as featured in the graphic immediacy of Early Morning (1967), with its rhythmic repetition of gold and red stripes interwoven with white, black, and gray. Alongside her paintings, Parsons filled numerous sketchbooks and notebooks with spontaneous observations. Works on paper such as the red, gold, and blue Heated Sky (1976) feature highly saturated color and rhythmic brushstrokes facilitated by the fluidity of the paint.

Counting many of the period’s leading painters among her former and current gallery artists, Parsons was immersed in the languages of abstract painting. Her own work, however, was rooted in the marriage of her powers of observation and interpretation. As she described in an interview with Lawrence Alloway in 1968, “When I start a painting I try to become a blank and only let an emotion come into me. If I say, for instance, I have an idea that I want to paint an atmosphere that I see out of the window, I try to become a blank when it comes to choice of forms and colors. I go up to the canvas with a brush and suddenly decide and I pick out a gray or brown or whatever the atmosphere is and put it on very spontaneously. That color introduces an idea for another color, and I go on from there.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue, featuring a new essay by art historian Elizabeth Buhe and an introduction by Rachel Vorsanger, Collection and Research Manager for the Betty Parsons Foundation.