A year ago, the Pace Gallery's Arne Glimcher was invited by Anna Reinhardt, the artist Ad Reinhardt's daughter, to a warehouse to view unknown works she had come across in storage. "They had been in a folder for 50 years," Glimcher told Art in America. The family knew the trove of small paintings existed, he says, but not scholars or collectors.
A selection of 60 pieces from the recently discovered cache goes on view Thursday at Pace. The works—small-scale oil on canvas and gouache on board paintings—are from 1935 to '45, "when there were almost no collectors of American Art," according to Glimcher. He says a few were sold by Betty Parsons, the hub of the Abstract Expressionists, in the 1950s. Reinhardt died in 1967; Pace has represented his estate since 1976.
Even the prominent art historian Irving Sandler, who was a friend of Reinhardt's and has written about him on numerous occasions, has only seen a few of the works from the artist's early period. "These are from when Ad was a kid, working closely with Stuart Davis," he says, adding, "Ad was always an abstract artist and became purer and purer" over time. Reinhardt was good friends with Davis, who was 20 years his senior, and the younger artist's early works have a clear connection to Davis's in their composition and palette.
Unlike the gravitas of Reinhardt's monochromes and tonally inflected black canvases, the early paintings have a touch of whimsy, with colorful forms and Miró-like linear elements jostling against each other. Reinhardt was "incredibly advanced as an artist at that time," says Glimcher, "even compared to his peers who were also experimenting. He is obviously searching too, but each painting is so finished and so perfect." The exhibition also features two groupings of works—drawings, gouaches and oils—that show Reinhardt's exacting process. "Reinhardt was very methodical," Glimcher says, "he did not capitalize on the accident."
Running through Oct. 15, the exhibition contains a total of 86 works, including ink and graphite works on paper and collages. Ten works are on loan from MoMA and private collections.
Untitled, 1939, gouache on board, 13 1/8 by 10 ¼ inches. (c) 2011 Estate of Ad Reinhardt/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.