Though he palled around with Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, pioneering Abstract Expressionist Roy Newell is largely unknown. At the height of the movement that swept through New York in the mid-20th century, Newell retreated from the spotlight to focus on his small yet intense, geometric abstract paintings. In a new exhibition at Sotheby's New York headquarters, Roy Newell: Works from the Archives, the artists name once again stands alongside his contemporaries. Featuring paintings from the collection of Anne Newell, the artist's unwavering advocate and wife, the gallery is showcasing 18 paintings spanning over half a century of Newell's career.
Timed with the opening of Newell's gallery show, as well as that of another under-appreciated painter, Alfonso Ossorio: Works from the Foundation , a new video, exclusively premiering on Creators and released by Sothebys, delves into Newell's art and life, as told by fellow artist and friend Richard Dupont. The video is packed with insider trivia about Newell and his practice: Dupont describes him as a "quintessentially New York character" who would walk around the neighborhood "with nothing on but a down vest and no shirt." Newell had a notoriously adversarial relationship with Jackson Pollock, and Dupont says the painters sometimes got into fistfights at the local tavern.
As his contemporaries gravitated towards large-scale, bombastic works, Newell moved in the opposite direction, at one point destroying all the pieces he'd produced to date. His paintings shrank in size as they intensified in complexity, with tiny, emotive brushstrokes revealing an obsession with texture. Perfected over years, and sometimes decades, Newell's vibrant works symbolize the artist's dedication to his craft and the pursuit of perfection.
Learn more about Newell and watch the video in its entirety below:
Roy Newell: Works from the Archives is on view at Sotheby's New York through June 9.