There are a lot of fascinating footnotes to the artist John Ferren, born in Pendleton, Oregon, in 1905. A friend of Picasso’s, he helped stretch the canvas for the renowned protest painting Guernica (1937). Intellectual and intrepid, he moved among the most important circles of artists in Paris and New York from the 1920s through the 1950s. Also in the 50s, he collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock, and created the famous painting Portrait of Carlotta, the obsessional trigger and vortex of the 1958 film Vertigo. Ferren was a founding member as well as a president of “the Club,” the artists who formed the core of the New York School and Abstract Expressionism. The Findlay exhibition “From Paris to Springs” lays the emphasis on Ferren’s work from this period—especially the controversial “Vase paintings”—but the show includes earlier and later work too. Ferren wasn’t straitjacketed by a label. When Elaine de Kooning called him out on figuration in painting that was Abstract Expressionist, he said of the movement, “It wasn’t a style; it wasn’t a way of working; it was an attitude toward art and the artist and his place in society.” This overdue exhibition puts Ferren into compelling context. —L.J.
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