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Marina Stern (1928 – 2017)

Updated: Mar 27, 2022

Rooftop, oil on canvas, 25 x 35 inches, 1972, signed and dated verso, exhibited at Lee Ault & Company, New York, New York in 1972 (exhibition label verso); provenance: Lee Ault & Company, New York, New York


About the Painting

Rooftop is an excellent example of Marina Stern’s unique form of synthetic photorealism. This work owes a debt to precisionist painters from the time-period between the world wars, such as Charles Sheeler and George Ault, as well as Ralston Crawford and Edmund Lewandowski, both of whom where still working in the early 1970s when Stern painted Rooftops. Although Rooftops explores the same subject matter as many of the precisionists – the vertical sprawl of the New York City Metropolis – Stern provides us with more details and greater three-dimensionality. Stern’s verisimilitude doesn’t go as far as many of her photorealist contemporaries, like Richard Estes, however. Her editing of reality is more severe, resulting in a form of minimal photorealism that is carefully mediated. Rooftops skillfully synthesizes some of the most powerful visual vocabulary of in 20th century American Art into bright, refreshing almost super-real work of art.

About the Artist

Marina Stern was a multifaceted New York based artist. A native of Venice, Stern and her family fled in 1939 to escape Italy’s repressive racial laws. After living in England for several years, the family arrived in the United States in 1941. Stern initially made a splash in the avant-garde art world in 1964 when Time magazine reviewed a show at Amel Gallery which featured three of her audio-visual paintings. Time’s critic noted that Stern created the “cleverest noisemakers” in the show. Time dubbed this work “Talkie Pop,” a label which Stern rejected. After working in this satirical style, Stern turned to a form of minimal synthetic photorealism. Her success in this genre led to New York gallery representation by Lee Ault & Co and Forum Gallery, where she had five one-woman shows. Stern also enjoyed solo exhibitions in Boston (Eleanor Rigelhaupt Gallery), Harford (Silo Gallery), Chicago and Santa Fe. Her work was included in group shows at a number of museums, including The Staten Island Museum (New York), Worcester Art Museum (Massachusetts), and the National Academy of Design (New York). Stern is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington DC), and the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute (Washington DC) in addition to other institutions. The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art hosted a retrospective of four decades of Stern’s work from January 19 to April 22, 2007, entitled Perception and the Cultural Environment: The Paintings of Marina Stern.


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