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Stanley Boxer

January 19 February 18, 2012


ARTFORUM-MAR 2012  /  Piri Halasz-FEB 2012  /  Piri Halasz-SEPT 2009


March 2012
By Donald Kuspit
ARTFORUM review Stanley Boxer

Boxer at Spanierman Modern

Stanley Boxer - Lostnight, 1997February 1, 2012
By Piri Halasz
"From the Mayor's Doorstep" -

Like so many other modernist artists, Stanley Boxer benefitted from Clement Greenberg’s unique talent for milieu-building, though the two rarely got together in the latter part of their lives. I first met Boxer (1926-2000), together with his wife, the painter Joyce Weinstein, some time in the ‘80s or ‘90s, on the vernissage circuit, for he exhibited with several topnotch galleries known for their modernist orientation: André Emmerich, Salander O’Reilly, and (if memory serves correctly) also Stephen Long. Nearly twelve years after his death, however (and eighteen after Greenberg’s), Boxer still keeps going strong. His 2009-2010 retrospective, which I wrote about at some length, traveled from Richmond VA to Bridgeport CT and thence to Boca Raton FL, and the current exhibition, “Stanley Boxer” at Spanierman Modern, is a worthy successor to the retrospective (through February 18).

In all, the checklist has 21 paintings, almost all from the 1990s, but with two from the 60s, and one dated 1973. At the opening, I witnessed several painters exclaiming with pleasure over the earlier ones, but for me, the most distinctive were the later ones, made after Boxer developed his signature method of building and adorning his paint surfaces with glister, minuscule beads from supply shops for dressmakers, and granular elements, as well as tiny wood shavings and sawdust. Such was his genius that all these elements customarily blend perfectly together with his paints, creating an esthetic whole..

I especially liked the group at the east end of the gallery, with two winners that both had a lot of red in them, “Asnowsear” (1996) and “Capturetheheartland” (1991). The central display of three paintings facing the street (and visible through the gallery window) is also striking, especially the central, largest one, “Placeofwonder” (1996), a pale but vigorous study in orchard colors, with greens, leaf-like patches and peachy yellows. At the west end of Spanierman Modern, over a staff member’s desk, hangs a fourth very impressive painting, “Blacksnowssargasso” (1994), this one with a charcoal-colored field and a starry, seemingly revolving oval of dabs of pink, blue and white. And in the little viewing room, with its comfy seating arrangement, the large & handsome gray-on-gray with green and earth-colored accents is titled "Screamwithcalm" (1996). That title may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s a fair reflection of Boxer’s special talent: to unite opposites.
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Remembering Stanley Boxer: A retrospective, 1946-2000

September 12, 2009
By Piri Halasz

This review from 2009 has been selected as our TOPICAL PICK FROM THE ARCHIVES while an exhibition of Boxer’s work continues at Spanierman Gallery through February 18, 2012

August 20–October 4, 2009
Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art
University of Richmond Museums
Richmond, Virginia 804 289-8276

tour in 2010:
February 11–March 28, 2010
Housatonic Museum of Art
Housatonic Community College
Bridgeport, Connecticut 203 332-5000

April 20–June 13, 2010
Boca Raton Museum of Art
Boca Raton, Florida 561 392-2503

Stanley Boxer - Atimethattime, 2000
Stanley Boxer, Atimethattime 2000. Oil and mixed media on canvas, 32-3/8 x 65-5/8 inches. Courtesy University of Richmond Museums. © Estate of Stanley Boxer. Photograph by Taylor Dabney.

The Stanley Boxer paintings I saw in Manhattan galleries in the 1990s made me think of stardust. Boxer’s “mixed media” didn’t bear the loads of nostalgia that one finds in Robert Rauschenberg or Kurt Schwitters. Rather, the ultra-fine glistening granules, sequins, delicate strings, sawdust, minuscule wood shavings and other mystery ingredients were chosen for purely aesthetic reasons. How they looked mattered more than what they said, and how completely they could be integrated into airy paintings whose subtle surfaces of soft, luminous colors shimmered with hundreds of tiny points of darkling light.

Effortless as these paintings appear, they were only achieved after decades of evolution. The progression is charted in this modest but satisfying retrospective. Drawn almost entirely from the artist’s estate, and curated by Elizabeth Stevens, the show offers the first prolonged look at Boxer’s career since his death in 2000 at the age of 73. Included are 48 paintings, 13 sculptures and 6 drawings. Four fine paintings are in the Harnett’s collection; the Housatonic Museum in Connecticut, and the Boca Raton Museum in Florida, to which the show travels, also own Boxers. While the drawings are charming, and a few of the sculptures impressive, Boxer was a painter first and foremost.

The earliest works in the show are abstract -surrealist figure studies from Boxer’s student days in the later 1940s. A native of Brooklyn, he served in the Navy during World War II, then attended the Art Students League. His first Manhattan show was in 1953, but the earliest pure abstraction on view is Green Winterwhite (1969). This tall, narrow collage-painting has five vertical strips of fabric, the center one pale green, the others pale gray. The title is also the first with a compound word. Such titles, inspired perhaps by James Joyce and by the compound words in German, would reach jawbreaking lengths. The title of the show pays homage to this linguistic trope.

In the next few years, the artist created some handsome, relatively thinly-brushed abstractions, among them Lafayettecrossing (1972) and Sunbraid (1973). By the end of the decade, he was layering his paint in fat dabs that covered his canvases and created an impression of “alloverness.” Clement Greenberg likened this work to Jules Olitski’s, but Boxer had arrived at his own synthesis independently. Lacedplumeinabam (ca. 1985) is a particularly fine example from this period.

In the ‘90s, Boxer attained his zenith, with the stardust paintings that so moved me originally. The last gallery in Richmond is the best, especially six magnificent paintings hanging together, from Aheartsdarkkeep (1992) on through Lostnight (1997) to Atimethattime (2000). This last, serene horizontal has fields of snowy whites and tans, with browns and sawdust at its lower corners, plus showers of tiny brown objects that resemble raisins or precious ores, mostly surrounded by individual little creamy puddles. It is like a miraculous snowfall that warms as it is cooling.
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