A first-generation action painter, Raymond Hendler started his career as an Abstract Expressionist in Paris, as early as 1949. In the years that followed, he played a significant role in the movement, both in New York, where he was a friend of Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock, and in Philadelphia, where he ran an avant-garde gallery between 1952 and 1954. His work evolved from overall tightly-wound linear webs to abstract pictograms that blend a personal language with hints at figuration. Of the latter works Kline, remarked in 1961: “The direct austere design and color complexes paint the image without undue nuances—with clarity and mature independence.”
Hendler studied in his native Philadelphia, at the Graphic Sketch Club, the Philadelphia College of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, and the Tyler School of Art (Temple University). In 1949, he traveled to Paris, where he continued his training at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière on the G.I. Bill. Immersing himself in the Left Bank art scene, he formed close friendships with the Canadian Taschist painter, Jean Paul Riopelle, and the noted Australian sculptor, Robert Klippel. In Paris, he exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne and was a founding member of Galerie Huit, the first American cooperative gallery in Europe. Its members included Sam Francis, Sidney Geist, Burt Hasen, Al Held, Shirley Jaffe, Paul Keene, Jules Olitski, Robert Rosenwald, Carmen D'Avino, Haywood Bill Rivers, and Herbert Katzman.
Returning to New York in 1951, Hendler became part of the exploding Greenwich Village art scene. He was a voting member of the New York Artist’s Club from 1951 until its end in 1957. He met the leading figures in the New York School, including the painters Pollock, de Kooning, and Philip Guston and the critic Harold Rosenberg. With Kline, he established a friendship that would last throughout the rest of Kline’s life and significantly inform Hendler’s work. During this same period, Hendler was active in Philadelphia. At the Hendler Galleries, which he ran from 1952 to 1954, he exhibited the work of Paul Émile Borduas, de Kooning, Sam Feinstein, Guston, A.P. Hankins, Hugh Kappel, Robert Keyser, Kline, George McNeil, Albert Newbill, Dimitri Petrov, Pollock, Melville Price, Ludwig Sander, and Jack Tworkov. He introduced to America work made by friends in Paris, notably Francis, Milton Resnick, and Riopelle. Hendler gave Yvonne Thomas, Stephen Pace, Robert Richenburg and Joseph Stefanelli their first solo shows.
Throughout the fifties, Hendler participated in numerous exhibitions including, "an American, one-man premiere," at the Dubin Galleries in Philadelphia—"fresh from Paris"— and historic invitationals at the Camino, March, and Stable Galleries in New York. He was represented by the Rose Fried Gallery during the 1960s. Kline wrote the introduction to his solo show in 1962 at Fried. In 1963, he received the Longview Foundation Purchase Award, juried by de Kooning, Thomas Hess, Guston, Rosenberg, and David Smith. Hendler produced some of his most important work in the 1970s and 1980s, a period in which he was a full professor at the University of Minnesota. During his forty-year teaching career, Hendler also taught at the Contemporary School of Art, Brooklyn; Parsons School of Design, New York; Pratt Institute, Brooklyn; and School of Visual Art, New York; and Minneapolis College of Art, where he was head of the painting department.
Hendler retired from teaching in 1984 and moved two years later to the East End of Long Island. He lived and painted for the last ten years of his life in the house in East Hampton’s Northwest Woods that he built with his wife, Mary Rood.
Hendler’s first solo exhibition was a Galerie Huit in Paris in 1951. Subsequently he had frequent solo exhibitions in New York, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and other locations. During his lifetime, he participated extensively in group shows, beginning in 1949. Since his death in 1998, his work has continued to be featured in solo and group shows, many of which are important reconsiderations of the art of the second half of the twentieth century.
Hendler is represented in the collections of numerous museums and public collections in America and abroad, including Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Calcutta, India; Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis; Grey Art Gallery, New York; J. Walter Thompson Company, New York; Minneapolis College of Art & Design; Minneapolis Institute of Art; New York University; Novartis Co., East Hanover, New Jersey; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; University of New Mexico, Art Museum, Albuquerque; University of Notre Dame, Indiana; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
© Berry Campbell, 2015