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Back Stories

Mar 19 — Apr 24, 2021

In conjunction with Dear John, on view in concurrent shows at Adams and Ollman and JTT, Fleisher/Ollman offers Back Stories, an online selection of books and ephemera.


Art is not the only material that accumulates in a gallery over decades in business. People who build their lives around the practices of making and collecting have a tendency to treasure archives, ephemera, and obsolete technologies of all species and temperaments. A Rolodex, typewriter, and sales slips in carbonless triplicate were still in use at Fleisher/Ollman in 2006. A couple of years ago the typewriter either stopped working, or we could no longer find ribbons for it, and while this was not an everyday tool at this point, if one of us wasn't around to print a provenance label, John was well pleased to type one out.


The gallery has just finished its second move in eight years, with each move spurring a new round of shedding: stacks of show announcements, old letterhead, out-of-date files, CD-Rs, floppy disks, magazines, dead computers, and the fax machine that took up a quarter of the desktop and occasionally greeted us in the morning with the promise of cheap rates on travel packages to the Bahamas. A selection of books and fair catalogs also didn't make the cut this time around.


These purges bring both a sense of relief, and one of uncertainty. Next year will be the gallery's 70th, and John's institutional memory goes back 50 years now. We can still puzzle out pieces of provenances with a trip to the file cabinet, compare the current condition of a work to an un-scanned transparency from the '80s, or refer back to an exhibition catalog for an image of a work being sold from a private collection. Two  binders and three spiral bound notebooks keep forty years worth of price lists. These, and a box full of exhibition announcements rediscovered last year, have helped us piece together a good chunk of the gallery's exhibition history, but there are holes.


One could deconstruct the history of 20th century self-taught American art with a read through our library, between classic tomes and flimsy, staple-bound exhibition catalogs. As William Pym recounts: "John is into books, and he was always aghast when we, recent students of postmodernism, hadn’t seen this or that classic. He’d rustle around the library and dramatically whip out the volume in question, and that’s how we became hip to Flash of the Spirit and Magiciens de la Terre and the Westermann catalogue raisonné. John makes a strong case for having a library."


So here are a few tid-bits, for reference, inspiration, nostalgia, and posterity.



Dear John


Adams and Ollman, Portland OR
Mar 19 – Apr 17, 2021


James Castle with Evgeny Antufiev, Katherine Bradford, Andrew Cranston, Vaginal Davis, Lois Dodd, Ficus Interfaith, Nick Goss, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Chris Johanson, David Korty, Isaac Tin Wei Lin, Sarah McEneaney, Ryan McLaughlin, Jeffry Mitchell, Dina No, Hilary Pecis, Conny Purtill, Emily Mae Smith, Becky Suss, Ricky Swallow and Willa Wasserman


Accompanying essay, "See it All", by William Pym



JTT, New York, NY

Mar 19 – Apr 24, 2021


James Castle, Felipe Jesus Consalvos, William Edmondson, Lee Godie, William Hawkins, Marlon Mullen, Diane Simpson, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Bill Walton, Philadelphia Wireman, Joseph Yoakum


2021 03 back story 22 1000 xxx q85
A recent dialogue attempted to pinpoint the date the gallery transitioned from being known as the Janet Fleisher Gallery, to Fleisher/Ollman Gallery. This has never been entirely clear to the younger of us, and John's memory for prices does not extend to dates. Postcard Archive 2 with the answers.
2021 03 back story 21 1000 xxx q85
In addition to providing object information, provenance labels have been helpful in approximately dating a work's entry into inventory. This one was likely typed up by John on his electric typewriter, and dates to the late 17th st days after Janet Fleisher's retirement and before the gallery moved around the corner to 1616 Walnut.
2021 03 back story 17 1000 xxx q85
At some point in the late 1990s/early 2000s someone decided to change the stock numbering system for the Philadelphia Wireman inventory from "WM" numbers to "PW" numbers, which has never ceased to confuse every last one of us. We've relied on this ledger of early entries to match the old tags on the works to the new numbers in our database. The list on the right is from the first Wireman show.
Pw 1053 1000 xxx q85
This work, now identified as PW 1053, and resold on behalf of its original owner, is #2 on the price list above.
2021 03 back story 20 1000 xxx q85
Duveen / S.N. Behrman. A series of articles originally published in the New Yorker tell the story of the famous dealer who sold the European masters to America. Published in 1952, illustrated by Saul Steinberg.
2021 03 back story 10b 1000 xxx q85
Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists / Chuck and Jan Rosenak. The dog-eared, post-it-bookmarked bible, as referenced in William's essay over on adamsandollman.com. Right: Drossos Skyllos.
2021 03 back story 08b 1000 xxx q85
Catalog for Black Folk Art in America, 1930-1980 / by Jane Livingston and John Beardsley with a contribution by Regenia Perry. This show, which originated at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C., is often referenced as a pivotal moment in the art world's recognition of Black American self-taught artists.
2021 03 back story 06b 1000 xxx q85
Twentieth Century American Folk Art and Artists / Herbert W. Hemphill Jr., Julia Weissman.
2021 03 back story 03b 1000 xxx q85
Magiciens de la Terre / Martin Jean-Hubert, Luque Aline, Francis Mark, Magnin André, Gaudibert Pierre, McEvilley Thomas, Bhabha Homi, Soulilou Jacques, Marcadé Bernard. In 2009 Fleisher/Ollman organized a twenty year anniversary homage to the groundbreaking 1989 exhibition at the Centre George Pompidou.
2009 10 back to earth 27 1000 xxx q85
Installation view: Back to Earth, 2009, at Fleisher/Ollman
2021 03 back story 01b 1000 xxx q85
Visions in Stone: The Sculpture of William Edmondson / Edmund L. Fuller. A long out-of-print, beautifully printed, definitive book on the artist, including photos by Edward Weston of Edmondson and his yard full of sculptures.
2021 03 back story 18 1000 xxx q85
Price List from Drawings, Paintings, Monuments, 1988, a show John counts among the gallery's most important.
1988 02 painting drawing monument 02 1000 xxx q85
Works by Horace Pippin in Paintings, Drawings, Monuments, 1988. The Getaway (second from right) is in the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
2021 03 back story 19 1000 xxx q85
Price List from Joseph Yoakum: Animistic Landscapes, 1989.
2021 03 back story 23 1000 xxx q85
Slide sheets from the pre-digital era, scanned as needed.
1995 01 miracles william edmondson 1 1000 xxx q85
Announcement card for Miracles: The Sculptures of William Edmondson, 1995. This remains one of the most comprehensive, non-institutional exhibitions of Edmondson's work, with 34 objects included.
1995 01 william edmondson show checklist 1 1000 xxx q85
Checklist (p.1) for Miracles: The Scultures of William Edmondson, 1995.
1995 01 edmondson 08 1000 xxx q85
Miracles: The Sculpture of William Edmondson, 1995.
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