Sally Hazelet Drummond’s show marked the second exhibition in a series sponsored by the Mark Rothko Foundation that would seek to grant exposure to more mature or established artists, whose work had remained outside of a mainstream New York discourse.
Drummond first moved to New York in the late 1940s when she attended Columbia University; at the time, Abstract Expressionism loomed large on the critical horizon, and Drummond found herself thinking about both Ad Reinhardt and Philip Guston as potential clues to overcoming such a way of working. Her own work took a turn when she visited a retrospective of Georges Seurat’s work at MoMA in 1958; She began to employ pointillism’s manner of paint application in her abstract works. The paintings in the 1984 show were simple gradations from a center outward, achieved through stippled paint. The effect is the dissolution of the direct, Abstract Expressionist “gesture,” so that the closer one comes to the painting, the more its form begins to break up. There is a synaesthetic quality to the work; whereas stippled paint evoked certain effects of light in the work of Seurat, in Drummond’s work it seems more analogous to the effects of sound. The paintings vibrate with a quiet ambience–in fact, Drummond referred to her earliest such works as “Silent Painting.”