General Furniture & Decorative Arts

Washington Color School

NEW YORK, NY -- Gilbert and Sandra Oken's home gallery in Washington, DC displayed a vibrant array of art and contemporary craft. The couple’s personal collection was focused on local artists and galleries with whom they established direct relationships. Pedestals in every corner showcased whimsical sculptures and brightly colored glass, and the walls were covered with colorful paintings by important Washington, DC painters, including Paul Reed, Howard Mehring and Thomas Downing. Several works from the Collection of Gilbert and Sandra Oken reside in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery.

In 1965, the Washington Gallery of Modern Art presented the exhibition, Washington Color Painters, curated by Gerald Nordland. This show exalted in the achievements of a select group of Washington, DC artists whose experiments with color and canvas led to a new level of expression. This seminal exhibition included works by Reed, Mehring and Downing, along with Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Gene Davis, Leon Berkowitz and Sam Gilliam, as well as important women artists like Anne Truitt and Alma Thomas.

Several of these artists later became associated with The Washington Color School. They were championed by collector, curator and influential art promoter Vincent Melzac, as well as noted art critic Clement Greenberg. Melzac's own collection was presented at a Corcoran exhibition in 1970-71 entitled The Vincent Melzac Collection: Modernist American Art Featuring New York Abstract Expressionism and Washington Color Painting. The exhibition showcased one of the finest collections of American Abstract Expressionists together with Washington Color School artists. Works by Willem de Kooning, Norman Bluhm, and Michael Goldberg were displayed alongside Reed, Mehring and Downing. By positioning these lesser-known artists alongside their famous contemporaries, Melzac was instrumental in grounding the Washington Color School artists’ talent and achievements within a broader context. Works by Washington Color School painters continue to be discovered by collectors today.

Important Paintings

Doyle is delighted to present highlights from the Collection of Gilbert & Sandra Oken in the May 20, 2020 sale of Important Paintings.  View Lots

Portrait of specialist Samira Farmer
VP/Business Manager, DC/Mid-Atlantic Regional Advisory
General Furniture & Decorative Arts
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