October 3, 2017
Paul Reed (American, 1919–2015). No. 21, 1964. Acrylic on canvas. Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Promised gift of The Paul and Esther Reed Trust. Photo: Joseph Mills.
The Oklahoma City Museum of Art has received a gift of 125 paintings, sculptures, drawings, pastels and screen prints from the Paul and Esther Reed Trust by Washington Color School artist Paul Reed. The gift includes 49 works from the 1960s - one of the most important phases of Reed's career - and it instantly transforms the Oklahoma City Museum of Art into the definitive collection of Reed's work. "Paul Reed was one of the leading Washington Color painters, one of the few significant Modern art movements in the United States centered outside New York City," said E. Michael Whittington, OKCMOA president and CEO. "This transformative gift allows OKCMOA to organize a retrospective exhibition on Paul Reed and conduct the scholarship that further solidifies the artist in the canons of 20th century American Modernism. We are deeply grateful to Jean Reed Roberts and the Paul and Esther Reed Trust for this unique opportunity."
"As the museum with an important collection of works by the Washington Color painters, I am confident that this gift of my father's work to OKCMOA is the best way to preserve his legacy," added Jean Reed Roberts. "Seeing 'Number 17' next to works by Henri Matisse in the 'Matisse in His Time' exhibition at OKCMOA last summer was an incredible way to honor his memory. I am thrilled that the museum now has a comprehensive collection of Paul's work to share with future generations." Paul Allen Reed was born in Washington, D.C. on March 28, 1919. Building on an early career in newspaper work and graphic design, Reed began painting in 1952, adopting the style of Abstract Expressionism. Reed's early work centers on oil painting with some experimentation in watercolor enamel and gouache. In 1962, Reed began his service as the director of graphics for the Peace Corps, a position he held for almost a decade. During his time with the Peace Corps, Reed further experimented with interlocking shapes and the mandala form, creating his "Satellite" series. Reed had his first solo exhibition at the Adams-Morgan Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 1963. The Washington Gallery of Modern Art (WGMA) collected Reed's work during the 1960s, and it was included in OKCMOA's major acquisition of that collection in 1968. "The work of the Washington Color painters has been one of the most historically significant areas of OKCMOA's permanent collection," said J. Edward Barth, OKCMOA Board Chair. "Reed was a close friend to many other artists in that same movement, especially Gene Davis, another artist featured in OKCMOA's permanent collection. This gift is momentous and exciting not just for the Museum, but for Oklahoma City, and the incredible collection of modern and contemporary art we are building here." In the latter half of the 1960s, Reed began creating steel sculptures with Bill Truitt while also continuing to paint, producing works with zigzagging lines of color. In 1967, Reed began creating shaped canvases, gradually adding more sides in each new series and producing a series of shaped canvases. Due to the loss of his studio in the early 1970s, Reed had to radically scale down his work, shifting to oil pastels and gouache on paper. Simultaneously, Reed began working at the Corcoran School of Art, where he taught until 1981. In 1976, Reed was appointed artist in residence at Phoenix Art Museum and was later a visiting artist at Arizona State University at Tempe in 1980. He also began taking photographs in the early 1980s. In 1994, Reed finally returned to painting on canvas. In his final years, Reed painted bright, transparent colors on muslin and placed them in windows for the sunlight to pass through them, like stained glass. Reed died on Sept. 26, 2015.