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Robert Moskowitz in his Tribeca Studio, New York.

Robert Moskowitz in his Tribeca Studio, New York.
Photography by Arnold Newman. Arnold Newman Collection / Getty Images

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Robert Moskowitz, a quintessential New York painter acknowledged as a rare bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism, who died on Sunday, 24 March. He was 88.

Over his seven-decade career, Moskowitz frequently defied categorization, making paintings and large-scale drawings inspired by the scale and gesture of abstract painters without abandoning imagery, even at a time when abstract art seemed to rule. In his work, recognizable forms ranging from architectural landmarks such as New York’s Flatiron Building and Chicago’s Wrigley Building to cultural icons like Rodin’s Thinker and Giacometti’s Standing Woman are distilled into precisely rendered outlines juxtaposed against stark backgrounds. Divorced from their original context, the images seem to exist in a space somewhere between representation and abstraction. Through these innovative techniques, Moskowitz always made such images his own, often interrupting the surface with an errant mark or evoking a sense of unease, producing something unexpected from the expected.

While the art world followed its cycles and fashions, Moskowitz always forged his own path. Early in his career, when Abstract Expressionism dominated, Moskowitz redefined the formal qualities of painting by collaging window shades onto his canvases. As Minimalism rose to prominence, he drew from its reductive tendencies but used them to explore the limits of representation, painting sparse architectural interiors. In contrast to the commercial imagery of Pop Art, Moskowitz depicted subjects that held personal significance, such as the Twin Towers and Empire State Building, both of which were visible from his studio, or the Red Cross, the image of which caught his attention while watching John Byrum’s film The Razor's Edge. As his career unfolded, he continued on this path, expanding his repertory of imagery and finding new ways to surprise.

At age 26 he was included in the seminal 1961 exhibition The Art of Assemblage at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, a show that helped identify how modern art had used material and process to break rules and create new genres. The next year his paintings of collaged window shades and mailing envelopes became the core of a one-person exhibition at Leo Castelli, arguably New York’s most influential gallery at the time. A few years later, in 1967, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 1978, Moskowitz was a central figure in the Whitney Museum’s group show New Image Painting, which brought together a small group of artists who uniquely melded abstract and figurative gestures. Over a decade later, in 1989, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden mounted a major retrospective of the artist’s work, which traveled to the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art and to MoMA in 1990. Beyond his institutional success, Moskowitz was a member of a quiet community of artists, particularly in New York and Cape Breton Island, described amongst his peers as a “painter’s painter.” Occasionally these friendships evolved into artistic collaborations, such as when he and Mel Bochner made the 1966 film New York Windows.

His exhibition of works from four decades opened at his new gallery, Peter Freeman, Inc., on 14 March, the day he entered the hospital with complications from Parkinson’s, which had only been diagnosed in recent years. While we recently announced our representation of the artist only one month ago, Bob and Peter have had a personal relationship for the past 45 years since they originally met when Peter worked at the Whitney Museum, and with Peter later organizing his 1988 solo exhibition at Blum Helman. We are committed to maintaining this relationship with his estate and continuing to introduce Moskowitz’s work to new audiences.