June 1 - July 22, 2023

60 & 61 Lispenard Street

P: 212 925 4631

New York, NY

Is and Isn't: A Context for Denzil Hurley

Curated by Melissa E. Feldman


 Installation view of Is and Isn't: a contect for Denzil Hurley


Is and Isn’t: A Context for Denzil Hurley situates the work of the Barbados-born American painter Denzil Hurley (1949-2021) within the discourses around abstraction that unfolded over the course of his career. Curator Melissa E. Feldman places the work of the artist, an important teacher who spent over twenty years at the University of Washington in Seattle, in relation to that of David Diao, Nikita Gale, Harmony Hammond, Nancy Haynes, Harriet Korman, James Little, Helen Mirra, and John Zurier. As the title suggests, Is and Isn’t identifies affinities as much as it does differences between Hurley and the featured artists, demonstrating the artist’s peerless approach to form as a register of experience.

Taking a cue from Hurley’s engagement with grids, monochromes, cutouts, and utilitarian materials, the work of these intergenerational artists, mainly based in California and New York reference aspects of Hurley’s reductivist practice and his unconventional approach to painting. These range from Haynes’s and Zurier’s atmospheric monochromes and Hammond’s feminist grids using household materials to Diao’s postmodernist yet laborious paintings. Hurley, along with Little, belongs to a generation of Black abstract painters that includes Sam Gilliam and Jack Whitten in search of a practice that allowed for open-ended experimentation with process and materials. Little’s Plebian Math (2022) shows his radical technique that involves applying a 

thick net of white oil paint across confetti-colored fields. Korman emerged in the 1970s with the feminist art movement but, like Little and Hurley, keeps politics out of the picture. Instead, she’s interested in formalism’s entanglements with angst, virtuosity and the sublime. Working a generation earlier, the Argentinian artist Paternosto created monolithic cutout paintings that claim a non-Western, non-industrial source for minimalism in ancient Amerindian culture.

Looking forward, Is and Isn’t: A Context for Denzil Hurley includes the work of two artists belonging to a younger generation. In her geometric soft sculptures, Mirra balances a minimalist foregrounding of materiality—albeit using hand woven sheep’s wool—with a systems-type conceptualism rooted in everyday routines. At the other extreme are Gale’s cagelike monochromes in which concrete-laden terry cloth strips weave through a three-dimensional aluminum grid. The knotted fabric resembles calligraphic gestural abstraction but also hastily wrapped bandages or a straight-jacket—pushing modernism into the political fray.

Is and Isn’t: A Context for Denzil Hurley runs in tandem with Denzil Hurley: To be pained is to have lived through feeling, a selective overview of his work.


Nikita Gale

Aluminum, concrete, terry cloth
61 ½ × 38 × 35 in.


David Diao
Rietveld’s Berlin Chair parts on 3 color ground-vertical
, 2021

Acrylic on canvas
54 × 66 in.


Cesar Paternosto
Sumpu Punku
, 2021

Acrylic emulsion and marble powder on canvass
66 × 43 × 3 in.


 Installation view of Is and Isn't: a context for Denzil Hurley


Denzil Hurley
ZB3, Stacked Glyph
, 2014–2016

Oil on canvas and stick
100 × 18 in.


Harmony Hammond
Aperture #1
, 2013

Monotype on grommeted Twinrocker paper
34 × 26 ½ × 1 ⅝ in.


 Installation view of Is and Isn't: a context for Denzil Hurley


Nancy Haynes
Red Pine, 2018
Oil on linen
16 × 20 in.


Helen Mirra
Overlapping Discs
, 2023

Acrylic and charcoal on canvas
81 ½ × 106 ½ in.


John Zurier
Route to Paris
, 2019

Oil on linen
38 × 25 in.


Denzil Hurley
ZF1, Glyph A
, 2014–2015

Oil on canvas and green metal attachment
58 × 24 in.


 Installation view of Is and Isn't: a context for Denzil Hurley


James Little
Plebian Math
, 2022
Oil on linen
38 × 46 in. 


Harriet Korman
, 2019
Oil on canvas
24 × 30 in. 

Selected Works

Dream SpeakRachel Eulena Williams

ZzyzxChristina Sucgang

HomesickSadie Laska

Promised LightLuke Murphy

ReadersKiyoshi Tsuchiya

ComeCloseJoan Snyder

NocturnesAnke Weyer

Arms and the SeaKatherine Bradford

Objet OuttaKen Resseger

Last LandscapesGerald Ferguson

Leroy's LuncheonAzikiwe Mohammed

Frisson CityLee Relvas

Reassembler 3Brian Belott

A Ball is for ThrowingElizabeth McIntosh

Ambient MusicLee Mary Manning

TORSOAnnabeth Marks

BiscuitLyric Shen

Body ForthMatt Connors

A Cliff to ClimbRyan Preciado

Library of a DreamRobert Janitz

Gold GoldRJ Messineo

On ValentinesSpencer Lewis

Who is afraid of Natasha?Joanna Malinowska & CT Jasper

USMichael Mahalchick


The Thick StreamGroup Exhibition

5 SeasonsJason Fox

Mother PaintingsKatherine Bradford

Ceramics and PrintsElisabeth Kley

Black Femme: Sovereign of WAP and the Virtual Realm curated by Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle

#VayaConDiosKatherine Bernhardt

DrawingsJason Fox

Heart, HeartAnke Weyer

Tracing MemoryRachel Eulena Williams

Rayos De SombraRobert Janitz

GorpTyson Reeder

EREHWONSadie Laska