Throughout his four-decade-long career, Stanley Boxer broke through the barriers that often divided the artists of his day. In the 1960s, he was deemed a Color Field Painter, but at the time he was already moving toward the material specificity of process art, building dense surfaces with unexpected additives, such as sand, glitter, sawdust, wood shavings, and dressmaker’s beads. However, Boxer stopped short of letting his materials speak for themselves. More interested in the end result than in his process or materials, in his art, he expressed his love for intense optical experiences in their own right. Rather than literalist statements, he sought to create new forms that could excite the eye.
Boxer found a meeting ground among the competing ideologies of his time, while maintaining his distinctive artistic identity. His paintings, sculpture, collages, and prints can be linked to contemporary currents, but throughout he maintained a commitment to creating surfaces characterized by intense radiance and nuance, designed with “a kind of choreography of material,” as described in Arts Magazine by Judith Van Baren in 1974.
It is interesting to read the substantial body of criticism of Boxer’s work for its conflicting viewpoints. To some critics, Boxer demonstrated minimalist tendencies—in his striving for directness, for example. To others, he was gargantuan in his inclusiveness—incorporating into his work anything he could get his hands on. Whereas one critic described his art as demonstrating a luminosity that evokes a “tranquil, almost spiritual” quality, another related his work to the drama of Baroque art, in the way that he was drawing with color, using strokes that “built up to a pictorial climax.” Some commentators observed the contradictions. Karen Wilkin described Boxer’s works as “at once lyrical and brutal.” In 2004, Grace Glueck wrote in the New York Times that Boxer’s paintings could be “read as landscapes as well as existing purely in the realm of paint.” An “artist’s artist,” Boxer created a body of work that is both cross-modal and independent, anticipating issues that were ahead of his time.
Boxer was born in New York City and grew up in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to New York and, with funds from the G.I. Bill, enrolled at New York’s Art Students League. From the start of his career, he was indefatigable, painting in his studio seven days a week. His first exhibition was held in 1953 at Perdalma Gallery in New York, where he also showed in 1954 and 1955. In 1968, Boxer had two solo exhibitions: one, of sculpture, at the Rose Fried Gallery in New York and the other, of paintings, at the Loeb Center, New York University. In marble and wood sculpture, he created directly carved abstract compositions in which textures and materials play expressive roles. In the years that followed, Boxer created collages, drawings, and monotypes in addition to his paintings, receiving acclaim for his work in all mediums.
Over the course of his career, Boxer delivered many lectures across the country. He held artist residencies at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada; the University of Colorado, Boulder; the Vermont Studio School, Johnston; and Kent State University, Ohio. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship (1975); a National Endowment for the Arts, Visual Artists Fellowship Grant (1989), and a posthumous lifetime achievement award for his contribution to the Cultural Life of Columbia County, presented by the Columbia County Council on the Arts, Hudson, New York.
Boxer’s work may be found in noted private and public collections in the United States and in other countries, including the Ackland Art Museum, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the Albright-Knox Art Museum, Buffalo, New York; the Ashville Art Museum, North Carolina; Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana; the Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Calcutta, India; the Boca Raton Museum, Florida; the Columbia Museum, South Carolina; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; the Dayton Art Institute, Ohio; the Edmonton Art Gallery, Canada; the Everson Museum, Syracuse, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Center, Washington, D.C.; the Houston Museum of Art, Texas; the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Jersey; the Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Milwaukee Art Center, Wisconsin; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton; Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; the Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna; the Power Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Santa Barbara Museum; the Singapore Art Museum; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: and the Wichita Art Museum, Kansas.
© Berry Campbell, 2015