Louise Fishman was born in 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although young Fishman’s ambition was to become an athlete, she was inspired to enter art school after a fortuitous meeting with an art student shortly after her high-school graduation. In 1956, Fishman began studying art at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art and went on to study at Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art, where she earned her BFA in Painting and Printmaking and a BS in Art Education in 1963. Fishman also studied for a brief period at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1965 she completed her MFA in Painting and Printmaking at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana, then headed directly to New York, where she has lived and worked ever since, along with ten years spent working in her studio in Upstate New York.
Coming from a truly singular artist with a powerful and demanding vision, Louise Fishman’s paintings are tough and uncompromising. Her work is architectonic, each painting containing an improvised structural grid assembled out of strokes, skeins, and slashes of paint. Containment and release work against each other. Shadow is as important as light, and color is always challenged. Her work celebrates process. Using scrapers and trowels, along with more traditional paint brushes, Fishman constructs loosely-gridded compositions by adding, scraping away, and re-applying paint, sometimes working and reworking canvases over a long period of time. At a time when postmodernism claimed painting to be “dead,” Fishman’s decisive re-appropriation of abstraction repositioned it for a different era and gender.
Louise Fishman’s work is represented in many public collections, including: the National Academy of Art and Design, NY; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg, PA; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; the Jewish Museum, NY; the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY; the Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, IL; the Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, NH; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA. She was the recipient of three National Endowment for the Arts grants, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among others.
Widely shown for the past five decades, her first group show was at the National Drawing and Print Exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1961. Her first solo exhibit was at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in 1963. Fishman was included in three Whitney Biennials, 1973, 1987, and 2014—the last biennial at the Breuer building. In 2016, the Neuberger Museum of Art organized the artist’s first retrospective, curated by Helaine Posner and accompanied by a monograph; the retrospective traveled to the Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2017. In Fishman’s hometown of Philadelphia, the Institute of Contemporary Art held a concurrent exhibition of her small-scale work, Paper Louise Tiny Fishman Rock, curated by Ingrid Schaffner.