Indian space painters

DEFINITION

An exotic name coined in 1943, it described American artists committed to mysticism, symbolism, and abstraction as it reflected their interest in American Indian culture stirred by a 1936 Museum of Modern Art exhibition focusing on tribal art. ISP members met in New York as students at the Art Students League in the late 1930s and then studied with modernist Hans Hoffman, who had left Munich and had a studio on 8th Street in Greenwich Village. The founder of the group was Steve Wheeler, and he was joined by Peter Pusa, Robert Barrell, Gertrude Barrer, Ruth Lewin, Helen DeMott, Will Barnet and Howard Daum, who coined the term. Copying the "flat, linear symbols and creating images in which it was nearly impossible to distinguish positive from negative space", the Indian Space Painters asserted that their abstract images embodied elemental truths. The ISP held only one exhibition, which was in 1946 at Gallery Neuf on East 79th Street. The 'death knell' for the public attention to the groups originality was Abstract Expressionism. Source: Joseph Jacobs, 'Indian Space Painters', "Art & Antiques", February 2007, p. 59

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