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American artist Nancy Graves (1939-1995) worked across a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, drawing, print-making and film. Her personal aesthetic emerged in the late 1960s in the form of realistic life-size sculptures of camels inspired by childhood memories from the Berkshire Museum (an institution showcasing art and natural history) where her father worked.  As a reaction to the idioms of Abstract Expressionism, Pop and Minimalism the camel sculptures immediately launched a career which would span three decades of innovation.  By utilizing scientific source material to create her intensely expressive works, Graves brings us closer to understanding the world around us while retaining its ability to spellbind.

About the Collection

Natural Phenomena

The present selection of works available here focuses on Graves's representation of natural phenomena and the formal modes of abstract art. In the early 1970s, in tandem with the more topographical Mapping works on view at Mitchell-Innes & Nash through April 6, Graves began making detailed gouache and watercolor works on paper of animals (such as fish, snakes and frogs) and large abstractions which take on the appearance of rivers, waterfalls or ice floes.  Like the topographical works, these pieces take a scientific approach to representation but expand into the fields of motion, seriality and verisimilitude.

Graves also explored these themes through polychrome sculpture with colorful patinas that reflect the brilliant tones of paintings and are connected to the real world by direct-casting found objects of natural forms such as coral, palm fronds and shells.

Reflections on the Moon

Mitchell-Innes & Nash is also pleased to present an exclusive showing of Nancy Graves's 1974 film, Reflections on the Moon, below. Made in collaboration with NASA, Reflections on the Moon explores the passage of motion picture film over a static surface of 200 stills of the lunar surface which, through the utilization of systematic camera actions, transform into black-and-white abstractions.

Images

NANCY GRAVES Fish 1971

NANCY GRAVES
Fish
1971
Gouache on paper
14 1/8 by 18 3/4 in.  35.9 by 47.6 cm.

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NANCY GRAVES Four Snakes 1971

NANCY GRAVES
Four Snakes
1971
Gouache on paper
22 1/2 by 29 3/4 in.  57.2 by 75.6 cm.

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NANCY GRAVES Photographs of a Jumping Frog at 1/40 Second 1971

NANCY GRAVES
Photographs of a Jumping Frog at 1/40 Second
1971
Gouache on paper
30 by 22 1/2 in.  76.2 by 57.2 cm.

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NANCY GRAVES Klong 1977

NANCY GRAVES
Klong
1977
Watercolor on paper
22 1/2 by 30 1/4 in.  57.2 by 76.8 cm.

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NANCY GRAVES Lour 1978

NANCY GRAVES
Lour
1978
Watercolor on paper
25 1/16 by 40 in.  63.7 by 101.6 cm.

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NANCY GRAVES Otun 1978

NANCY GRAVES
Otun
1978
Watercolor on paper
28 by 20 3/8 in.  71.1 by 51.8 cm.

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NANCY GRAVES Swen 1983

NANCY GRAVES
Swen
1983
Bronze with baked enamel
17 3/8 by 5 3/4 by 7 1/2

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NANCY GRAVES In Memory of My Feelings 1988

NANCY GRAVES
In Memory of My Feelings
1988
Watercolor and ink on paper
30 by 22 1/2 in.  76.2 by 57.2 cm.
Signed N. Graves VI-9-'88 lower left

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NANCY GRAVES Independent Energy 1988

NANCY GRAVES
Independent Energy
1988
Watercolor, silver leaf, acrylic and gouache on paper
30 1/8 by 30 in.  76.5 by 76.2 cm.
signed N.S. Graves VI-20-'88 lower right

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Biography

b. December 23, 1939, Pittsfield
d. October 21, 1995, New York

Nancy Graves received a BA from Vassar College in 1961.  She later received an MFA in painting from Yale University in 1964.  

Nancy Graves’s work is included in many public collections, notably those of The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. The Nancy Graves Foundation was established in 1996 through a provision of the artist's Last Will and Testament to give grants to individual artists and to maintain an archive of her life and work and organize exhibitions of her art.