Forgotten Artist Vivian Springford’s Paintings Stun in New York

Vivian Springford, Untitled (Martinique Series) (1974)
Vivian Springford, 'Untitled (Martinique Series)' (1974) | Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery
Rachel Gould

Art & Design Editor

Exalted stains bleed out across Vivian Springford’s technicolor canvases at Almine Rech Gallery in New York City, where 13 of the mid-century artist’s contemplative compositions are resurrected after decades of undue obscurity.

On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a series of large, brightly lit acrylic paintings hangs in Almine Rech Gallery. Each composition conjures the cosmos with meditative abstractions that are pleasing in their simplicity yet profound. Organized in honor of the gallery’s acquisition of Springford’s little-known estate, Vivian Springford is the artist’s first solo show in two decades.

Vivian Springford, 1937

Between the 1950s and ’70s, American painter Vivian Springford (1913-2003) prolifically contributed to the Abstract Expressionist and Color Field art movements in New York City. Her oeuvre was deeply influenced by the fluorescent paintings of Shanghai-born, New York-based painter Walasse Ting, whom Springford met in 1957; her practice was subsequently guided by the Chinese calligraphic philosophy that every mark is virtuosic – even in its imperfection.

In the Women in the Arts Foundation’s March 1976 newsletter, Springford described her practice as an “attempt to identify with the universal whole … I want to find my own small plot or pattern of energy that will express the inner me in terms of rhythmic movement and color. The expansive center of the universe, of the stars, and of nature is my constant challenge in abstract terms.”

Vivian Springford, ‘Untitled’ (1973)

Springford’s radiant paintings – luminous, organic drips and drops that expand out onto the canvas like ethereal galaxies – were, for a time, acknowledged (though never to the extent of her male contemporaries) with exhibitions at Great Jones Gallery and the Visual Arts Coalition, among a few others. But following the onset of macular degeneration in the 1980s, which rendered an increasingly reclusive Springford legally blind and unable to continue painting, her work was all but forgotten.

Some 10 years later, Springford called upon the services of a local assisted-living organization. She cultivated a friendly relationship with one of the volunteer social workers, who upon discovering Springford’s paintings brought the artist’s work to the attention of art dealer Gary Snyder. By 1998, Snyder organized Springford’s first comprehensive retrospective and her first survey in decades, titled Vivian Springford: Abstract Paintings 1956-1988. Nearly 20 years later, well after Springford’s death in 2003, her practice would be acknowledged in the landmark catalog Women of Abstract Expressionism, published in conjunction with an eponymous survey at the Denver Art Museum.

Vivian Springford, ‘Untitled (Tanzania Series)’ (1971)

Still, Springford’s work is absent from the ranks of New York City’s most celebrated abstract artists – Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, even Agnes Martin, whose pensive approach to her art form was not so different from Springford’s. On view until October 20, 2018, Vivian Springford at Almine Rech Gallery endeavors to draw contemporary attention back to this overlooked mid-century artist, with the aim of posthumously integrating Springford into the circle of New York City modernists whose names eclipsed hers.

“Vivian Springford was making ambitious paintings that have stood the test of time,” says Paul de Froment, the gallery’s director. “We are thrilled to be able to give a chance to the public to take a second look at this great body of work. And we will continue to work alongside the estate to dive deeper into her legacy and show more of Vivian’s work.”

Almine Rech Gallery, 39 East 78th Street, New York, New York, 10075, United States. +12128048496

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider

Hanna

women sitting on iceberg

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?

2 years.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?

It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.

WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?

I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.