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Category — Greenwich Village

The Pereira-Reavey collaboration

I. Rice Pereira’s third husband, George Reavey, was the first translator into English of Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak. Reavey, an Irish poet and close friend of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, had been Great Britain’s cultural attaché in Moscow during World War II.

The Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Welleseley College in Massachusetts is offering a series of podcasts featuring the work of 42 poets and artists, including Thomas, Frank O’Hara, Reavey and the artists Helen Phillips and Willem deKooning.

A portfolio of 21 etchings and poems was published in 1960, 11 years before the death of Pereira. The audio track representing this collaboration features Kristina L. Szilagyi, Class of 200, reading Omega by Reavey. Each print integrates text and image, including a poem in the hand of the author. The Omega print was made by Pereira, an example of close collaboration  between Reavey and Pereira over a long period.

The artist and her husband were present at at the death of Dylan Thomas in November 1953 in Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, only a few blocks from her studio home at 121 West 15th Street in Manhattan.

Reavey, who was fluent in both French and Russian, was a meticulous reader of poetry, his voice reflecting his precisionist inclinations. Pereira’s own voice (she was a frequent lecturer) was hushed and musical. She was an even better listener than she was lecturer.

Pereira and Reavey were avid party-givers. Reavey would often break into Russian dances at these parties. Thomas was often their bartender. He was a jolly and mischievous bartender. –DM

December 10, 2009   Comments Off on The Pereira-Reavey collaboration

Pereira in the Beat and Jazz eras

Jim Burns, the English poet, is a scholar of the Beat and Jazz eras. He is for this reason of interest to Irene Rice Pereira researchers. Pereira lived during her most creative years on Fifteenth Street just west of Sixth Avenue in Chelsea, the neighborhood just north of Greenwich Village where so much of those eras were lived.

(Because an imposing armory blocked her view from the front of her third floor flat, she painted in the rear where she could take advantage of north light).

Burns collects books about those formative times, and, as it turns out, a number of them refer to Pereira’s work. He has generously provided a list of such works in his personal library:

– Advancing American Art: Politics and Cultural Confrontation in Mid-Century by Taylor D. Littleton and Maltby Sykes, University of Alabama Press, 2005.

– Jackson Pollock: A Biography
by Deborah Solomon, Cooper Square Press, 2001.

– Clement Greenberg: A Life by Florence Rubenfeld, Scriber, 1997.

– Surrealism in Exile and the Beginnings of the New York School
by Martica Sawin, MIT Press, 1995.

– Abstract Expressionist Painting in America by William C. Seitz, Harvard, 1983.

– Most of the references are single ones, Burns says, thought the first book, Advancing American Art, has more details and reproduces her painting, Composition (1945), which was included in the exhibition, Advancing American Art, which was scheduled to tour in 1946-47 but was withdrawn after being attacked by some politicians and right-wing journalists.

Burns’s list prompted a recollection by Djelloul Marbrook, the artist’s  nephew. In 1963, he recalled, Pereira took part in picketing the Museum of Modern Art with other artists and writers. One of their complaints was that the museum had senabled Abstract Expressionism to steamroller other developments in American art.

Pereira was particularly articulate and passionate on this score, telling the BBC, which covered the event, that Abstract Expressionism had introduced a European angst to an exuberant American art scene. This remark was to prove problematical for her career, because it was misinterpreted in some quarters as an anti-Semitic sentiment, since many of the Abstract Expressionist painters were Jewish and had immigrated from Europe. Marbrook says this accusation stunned Pereira. She had meant simply that a more optimistic vein in American art had been shortchanged by the attention then being given Abstract Expressionism. The incident earned her important enemies.

Pereira participated in the life of Greenwich Village in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Marbrook remembers her sending him with some money for the hard-luck poet Maxwell Bodenheim. Pereira herself experienced hard times, but her  first inclination upon selling a painting and after paying her rent was to share some of her money with a fellow artist or poet.

The title on Surrealism struck another chord in Marbrook’s mind. His mother, the artist Juanita Guccione, Pereira’s younger sister, had been involved with the Surrealists in exile in New York City. She had done art work for their newspaper, Pour La Victoire. Both women studied with Hans Hofmann in Manhattan and Provincetown, MA.
Burns is the author of As Good a Reason As Any, Redbeck Press, UK, 1999;
Confessions of an Old Believer, Redbeck Press, 1996; Cool Kerouac, Limited and numbered edition, The Beat Scene Press, UK, 2008; What I Said, Eyelet Books, UK, 2008; and other books of poems, essays and stories.

September 2, 2008   Comments Off on Pereira in the Beat and Jazz eras