An artist who worked with tireless creative energy, Stanley Boxer produced a richly varied body of work for more than four decades. He drew from many modernist idioms, often uniting the gestural approach of Abstract Expressionism with the pure opticality of Color Field painting, although he never allied himself with any particular movement or category. Often called a “sculptor of paint,” he is best known for his materially dense, roughly surfaced canvases in which he at times left personal marks through the addition of dry oil pigments, drawing, and other materials. Boxer was also a noted sculptor and printmaker.
Stanley Boxer was born in New York City and grew up in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to New York and, with funds from the G.I. Bill, enrolled at New York’s Art Students League. From the start of his career, he was an indefatigable artist, painting in his studio seven days a week. His first exhibition was held in 1953 at Perdalma Gallery in New York, where he also showed in 1954 and 1955. Of his 1953 Perdama show, Stuart Preston wrote in the New York Times: “The general effect is one of radiance and he deserves praise for his adventurousness in composing harmonies.”1 In the 1960s, Stanley Boxer’s work was discovered by the noted critic Clement Greenberg, who described him as color field painter, even though Boxer felt such a designation to be too limiting. He stated in 1972: “Nothing is per se rejected in my work! Everything is possible.”2
In 1968, Stanley Boxer had two solo shows: one, featuring sculpture, at the Rose Fried Gallery in New York and the other, presenting paintings, at the Loeb Center of New York University. In his sculpture, produced in marble and wood, Boxer followed the direct carving method, creating abstract compositions that expressed and brought out the sensuous qualities of his materials. Of Boxer’s Rose Fried Gallery show, Hilton Kramer stated: “the stone mass is treated to delicate and highly deliberate incisions, which, paradoxically, underscore both the nature of the material and the art that is employed to raise the material to a plateau of quiet eloquence. The whole concept of style here rests on a very gentle, understated mode of articulation, and Mr. Boxer’s sensibility seems perfectly suited to realizing the particular qualities one expects from this person. By and large, this is an auspicious sculptural debut.”3
In the years that followed, Stanley Boxer also created collages, drawings, and monotypes, receiving acclaim consistently for his work. Describing Boxer’s art on view in a solo exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum in 1972, John Cauman wrote: “if a single ongoing theme characterizes the work of Stanley Boxer . . . it is the perpetual striving for directness of expression. Boxer applies this impulse to three distinct mediums—painting, drawing, and sculpture—without imitating himself in any of these mediums. By realizing the limitations of each, and exploring the intrinsic qualities of its materials, he manages to open up new possibilities for his art and to rediscover old ones.”4 In the late 1970s, Stanley Boxer’s works were perceived as sustaining a love of painting that had been lost when artists began to use methods of working that were indirect. Harry Rand wrote of his 1977 exhibition at André Emmerich Gallery: “Much that was gradually leached out of recent painting has just been returned to it in an exhibition so clearly important that it will be one we reckon with. Stanley Boxer’s show returns to us a major cultural artifact we have not had for over a decade: the work of a living painter worthy of measuring the rest of everybody’s production against.”5 Robert McDonald stated of a show of Boxer’s work in San Francisco in 1979: “It would be appropriate, I feel, to call Boxer a ‘maximalist’ painter. He puts everything into his paintings, rather than reduce them to bare essentials. He shares a kinship with the abstract expressionist painters of two generations ago, albeit mediated through subsequent stylistic developments such as color-field and lyrical abstraction.”6
Stanley Boxer produced work in the 1980s and 1990s that was similarly lauded by the critics. Valentin Tatransky wrote in Arts Magazine in 1982: “When I first thought of how to express my admiration for Stanley Boxer's new paintings, I came up with superlatives. Boxer should be praised. There are four or five painters today who are painting as well as he is, but I don't think that anybody is painting, overall, better than him.”7 Donald Kuspit described Boxer’s paintings in 1983 as “masterful achievements,” and Karen Wilkin wrote in 1996 that Boxer’s show of recent large canvases, coinciding with his seventieth birthday “included some of [his] best work to date.”8
Stanley Boxer delivered many lectures across the country over the course of his career and held artist residencies at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada; the University of Colorado, Boulder; the Vermont Studio School, Johnston; and Kent State University, Ohio. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship (1975); a National Endowment for the Arts, Visual Artists Fellowship Grant (1989), and a posthumous lifetime achievement award for his contribution to the Cultural Life of Columbia County, presented by the Columbia County Council on the Arts, Hudson, New York. Boxer’s work may be found in noted private and public collections in the United States and in other countries, including Ackland Art Museum, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Albright-Knox Art Museum, Buffalo, New York; Ashville Art Museum, North Carolina; Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana; the Birla Museum of Art, India; the Boca Raton Museum, Florida; the Columbia Museum, South Carolina; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; the Dayton Art Institute, Ohio; the Edmonton Art Gallery, Canada; the Everson Museum, Syracuse, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Center, Washington, D.C.; Houston Museum of Art, Texas; the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Jersey; the Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Milwaukee Art Center, Wisconsin; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton; Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; the Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna; the Power Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Santa Barbara Museum; the Singapore Art Museum; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: and the Wichita Art Museum, Kansas.
© The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery, LLC and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery, LLC, and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from Spanierman Gallery, LLC, nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery, LLC.
1 Stuart Preston, “Two Painters at Perdalma,” New York Times, October 10, 1953.
2 Quoted in John Cauman, “Stanley Boxer’s New Paintings,” Art International, January 20, 1972.
3 Hilton Kramer, “Stanley Boxer Stone Carvings on View,” New York Times, September 21, 1968.
5 Harry Rand, “Stanley Boxer,” Arts Magazine (May 1977).
6 Robert McDonald, “Stanley Boxer in Review,” Art Week (San Francisco) (September 1979).
7 Valentin Tatransky, “Stanley Boxer,” Arts Magazine (May 1982).
8 Donald Kuspit, “Stanley Boxer,” Artforum (May 1983); Karen Wilkin, “Stanley Boxer at Salander O’Reilly,” Partisan Review (1996).