As part of its Viewing Room programme, Simon Lee Gallery is proud to present work by American abstract painter Roy Newell (1914-2006), marking the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in the UK. This concise presentation showcases seventeen paintings spanning over half a century of the artist’s career. Characterised by their multi-layered surfaces, irregular geometrical patterns, obsessive reworking and luminous tonality, the works on display reveal an expressive power that aligns Newell with the Abstract Expressionist movement, of which he was an original member.
In the 1940s – before the emergence of Abstract Expressionism – the art reference room of the New York Public Library was a popular meeting point for burgeoning artists. It was here that Newell met his friend and life-long champion of his work, Willem de Kooning, and began his career on the same successful path as that of his contemporaries and fellow members of the soon-to-be New York school. While large-scale gestural painting was pioneered by most, Newell began moving in an entirely different direction. His paintings became smaller and more hermetic, with Newell himself becoming increasingly withdrawn from the art-world mainstream. He was fascinated by colour and texture, and his expressive brushstrokes, which emulate post-Impressionist artists such as Vuillard, Bonnard, and Cézanne, are juxtaposed with the rigidity of the grid that echoes the hard-edged abstraction of Malevich, Mondrian and Albers.