Paul Feeley


Born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1910, Paul Feeley studied painting at Menlo College, Menlo Park, California and the Art Students League. After completing his training, Feeley began teaching, first at Cooper Union (1935–1939) and later at Bennington College. The artist remained at Bennington for 27 years (1939–1966) and founded its celebrated art department. Committed to the art of his peers, Feeley exposed his students – among them, Helen Frankenthaler – to many of the most significant artists of his time. In addition, while at Bennington, he organised the first retrospective exhibitions of Hans Hoffmann, Jackson Pollock and David Smith.


Feeley’s early work was both intensely formal and technically innovative. Although classically derived, his paintings from this period are looser, more gestural and less emblematic than his better-known work from the mid-1960s. In later paintings, the forms gradually solidify and become more evocative of real life experiences. Simple shapes, which at the same time seem both poised and exuberant, are Feeley’s hallmark. Between 1962 and 1966 he created a series of paintings of jacks, which was uniquely suited to his ongoing interest in seriality and repetition, one shared by many Minimal and Pop artists but comparatively few of his colour field ‘peers.’ 


Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Feeley had solo exhibitions at many prominent institutions, including: Tibor de Nagy Gallery (1954, 1955, 1958, New York), Betty Parsons Gallery (1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1970, 1971, 1975, New York), and Kasmin Gallery (1964, London). During this period, his work was also featured in important museum exhibitions, such as Post Painterly Abstraction (1964, Los Angeles County Museum of Art), The Shaped Canvas (1964, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), The Responsive Eye (1965, Museum of Modern Art), and Systemic Painting (1966, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), among others. In 1968, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum mounted a memorial retrospective exhibition of his work. A full-career retrospective of Feeley’s work recently took place at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (2014–2015, Buffalo) and the Columbus Museum of Art (2015–2016), accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.


Feeley’s work is featured in the collections of major museums around the United States of America, including: the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Baltimore Museum of Art; Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Columbus Museum of Art; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Fogg Museum, Harvard University; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis;  the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Modern Art; the Neuberger Museum of Art, State University of New York, Purchase; the Phoenix Art Museum; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

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Paul Feeley: Space Stands Still

Waddington Custot is pleased to present Paul Feeley: Space Stands Still, the first solo exhibition of Feeley’s work in the UK for over 50 years. The exhibition shines a light on this significant but relatively overlooked artist who worked with Clement Greenberg and played a pivotal role in the careers of many seminal abstract artists, including Helen Frankenthaler.



This exhibition charts the development of Feeley’s abstraction over the course of his brief but prolific career, presenting pieces from the 1950s through to those created just before his untimely death in 1966 at the age of 55. Works by Feeley, including oil on canvas paintings and three-dimensional sculptures in wood, are shown in the UK for the first time. The works are characterised by Feeley’s distinctive approach to symmetry and pattern through curving shapes in vibrant colours. The central forms and repeated motifs, often in symmetrical clusters, are reminiscent of vertebrae and teeth, molecular structures or jacks.



Although often associated with Abstract Expressionism, Feeley broke with the movement in the 1940s. Speaking to Lawrence Alloway in 1964, the artist explained ‘I began to dwell on pyramids and things like that instead of on jungles of movement and action... The things I couldn’t forget in art, were things, which made no attempt to be exciting.’ And so Feeley’s work moved away from gestural abstraction and into ‘a quiescent art of stability, poise, and space’, as described by Douglas Dreishpoon in Imperfections by Chance (his 2015 essay on Feeley). This astute observation is echoed by Feeley’s comment that in his paintings ‘space stands still’.

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