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This site was conceived and launched using free public access computers at the Miami-Dade Public Library in downtown Miami Florida

Early Work - Jack Lembeck - Razor Gallery

"Carnival Square" (1971-72) collection of the artist (72"x 96")
Much of the dry pigment used in this painting was a gift from Judy Pfaff
Carnival Square is a reference to the Feast of San Gennarro in Little Italy, NYC ( Live Mullberry Street Cam)

Razor Show Review in Arts Magazine October 1973
"JACK LEMBECK's paintings have the look of both graffiti and trompe-l'oeil, casting painted shadows from elements at the level of the picture plane upon other elements that appear to lie just behind it. The irony of these shadows is that they make a completely fanciful painting such as Carnival Square look like precisely painted reality. We often feel we are looking at a graffitti-covered wall on a condemned building. The degree of trickery involved in Lembeck's work is perhaps increased because he is not presenting solid objects but pictorial elements. It is as if we are looking through a plate glass which has been painted upon and placed just at the surface of the canvas-behind this plate glass are three succeding planes in close proximity that form a kind of shadow box with out sides. (Sept. 22-Oct. 11)" (anonymous author) Huh ?
Late Twentieth Century

Regarding the Twentieth Century, renowned philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto exclaimed: "The seventies in America...was certainly socially and, in a view I am becoming increasingly convinced of, artistically the most important decade of the century. It was the seventies in which the objective pluralistic structure of the art world first began to show itself as something distinctive. It was the seventies in which indeterminately many directions began to show themselves as available to artists without any historical possibility of showing themselves as the historical direction for art."

Razor's edge

Razor was a seventies gallery that evolved from a nineteen sixties artists' cooperative named "Spectrum". Jack Lembeck was asked to join and become president by Andrew Stasik, the president of the cooperative at the time and visiting professor at Yale. He was teaching printmaking while Gabor Peterdi was on sabbatical. Jack agreed because the president was not required to pay dues. The first course of business was to hire Bill Hart as new the director because the current director wanted to resign and recommended Bill. Bill and Jack agreed that the gallery needed a new outlook and mission for the future. They decided the inaugural Razor exhibitions would be the United Graffiti Artists(u.g.a.) followed by Jack Lembeck (member president) and Judy Pfaff (artist guest). Lembeck resigned from the gallery when he could not convince the members to convert from "artist's co-op" to "non-profit organization" status even though he had verbal commitments for financial support. At the same time a significant number of serious professional galleries, both in SoHo and uptown, (including Pierre Matisse) were expressing an interest in exhibiting the recent work. (Be it a good career move or not - and against Ivan Karp's advice to join a prestigious uptown gallery) Jack chose to remain part of the gritty SoHo movement. He began by showing two new paintings at the new Warren Benedict Gallery. All the paintings from the Razor show were sold.
Razor was conceived at what many considered a sterile time for painting. Some said painting was dead. Popular recognized modes of art like minimalism, conceptual-ism and photo/hyper-realism were all established on systemic processes that detached the artist from the common challenges of creating art. There was a growing need for exhibitions of other modes of art. Razor was a voice in the hundred acre urban wilderness SOuth of HOuston street where artists and other adventurous creative individuals lived along side rag collectors, dumpsters and a few other pioneering galleries. While they created a new way of living called "Loft Living" it was almost a full decade before the uptown art powers would absorb and classify SOHO as the art center of the world. And even longer before the institutions would discover the lower east side. Then, social statement would monopolize the expression of late 20th century art. Chelsea was just a place to park taxi cabs. Brooklyn had a good museum. Though physically small the Razor mission was noble. It developed a cutting edge. Not in the usual sense of avantgarde mainstream, Art about Art, but by introducing artists who's work was more personally integrated with the human condition than the commodity elitism of the time.
The artists wanted to cut through the rhetoric. The name Razor was selected to signify this mission by Bill Hart (director-actor) and Jack Lembeck (president-artist). Razor was never intended to be an institution. It was a place for sowing seeds and grass root ideas. An incubator - A place where artists could introduce new experiments directly to the public before confronting a commercial dealer. Its life seems short now.
Yet, its spirit has survived.( NYC Galleries)

The painting below was part of the same exhibition.
And the first painting sold to a public collection.

"Spots and Dots" (1971-72) Whereabouts Unknown (108"x 84")

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More "Early Work"

Perhaps Flora Miller Biddle said it best in her book about the Whitney Museum;
“… Since Neolithic times, art has been a necessity for human beings, and artists have been the heart and soul of culture and society.
No one, not even the artists who make it, can control art.
These men and women are in touch with an ultimate mystery, with the essence of life’s meaning, and they bring it to us as a gift."

November 2015 - Graffiti Again
The first “Graffiti / Street Art” ever sold in or by a professional gallery was sold at "Razor Gallery" in 1973.
It was a work on canvas by the Graffiti artist called “Snake”.

Jack Lembeck

United States


About the Artist | Public Collections | Brittle Star | Windscape | Windscape Works | Landmind
Early Work | Jeff's Vehicles | Circles of Life | Lembeck at Yale | NYC Galleries |

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