Body Language: The Art of Larry Day
February 24 - May 21, 2022
This spring, the David Owsley Museum of Art hosts an expansive exhibition of more than 50 paintings and drawings by figurative artist Larry Day (1921–1998). Organized by the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the exhibition explores Day’s contributions to American art from the 1950s through the 1990s. Body Language: The Art of Larry Day is curated by the artist’s longtime friend David Bindman, emeritus professor of history of art at University College, London.
The exhibition surveys the three most prominent thematic categories in Day’s distinctive career: abstraction, figuration, and cityscape. Together, they work in concert to reinforce the artist’s significance and lasting relevance while exploring Day’s shift from abstraction to representation. In his hometown, Day was known as “the Dean of Philadelphia Painters,” so powerful was his inspiration and impact as an instructor at the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts) and across the city's many other art schools.
Body Language: The Art of Larry Day carefully examines the evolution of Day’s artistic voice, from his fascination with the work of the old masters and his expert skills as a draftsman, to his deep and abiding interest in music, literature, popular culture, and esoteric philosophical texts. Several of his monumental, multi-figural paintings are paired with their preparatory drawings and reveal glimpses of the artistic process.
The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalog distributed by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes essays by David Bindman; Sid Sachs, chief curator and director of exhibitions at UArts; Jonathan Bober, curator and head of the Department of Old Master Prints at the National Gallery of Art; and artist Eileen Neff, who studied with and subsequently taught alongside Day. Also included is a “Memory Portrait” written by retired National Gallery of Art curator Ruth Fine, who married Day in 1983.
Image: Larry Day, American (1921–1998), Narrative: To the Memory of Matteo Giovanetti, 1967, oil on canvas 65 ½ x 78 3/8 in., Woodmere Art Museum, Gift of Ruth Fine in honor of Irving and Miriam Brown Fine, 2020, © Woodmere Art Museum