Friday Night Painters

July 28 - August 11, 2017

The Story of the Friday Night Painters
The story of the Friday Night Painters is closely intertwined with that of the Guilford Art Center. Over the past 50 years, individual FNPs have been students, teachers, board members, and show organizers at GAC. This exhibition celebrates their enduring connection to each other and to the Center that helped shape their intense sense of community.

The Group Forms and Evolves
In the mid-1970s, some FNPs began taking painting and drawing classes at what was then the Guilford Handcraft Center with Dan Rice, the mentor and inspiration for the group. Rice was a second-generation abstract expressionist painter who attended avant-garde Black Mountain College in the 1940s and 50s. He was an active member of the burgeoning postwar art world in New York – friends with Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollack, Kenneth Noland, and Joan Mitchell, among others. Rice’s initial group of students disbanded when he moved back to New York City in the early 1980s, but they reassembled when Rice returned a few years later to live and work in a large studio overlooking a wide salt marsh in Madison.

The FNPs Paint in Madison and Maine
In the early 1990s, Rice’s students persuaded him to begin hosting open-studio sessions on Friday nights in his Madison studio. The group grew to 14 painters, some traveling each week from as far away as New York City and Long Island. These gatherings were never a formal “class” – instead, they were an informal, lively opportunity to paint and interact with others in the legendarily free and experimental tradition of Black Mountain College.

The group adopted the name “The Friday Night Painters” and held several exhibitions a year at Rice’s studio throughout the 1990s, sometimes attended by up to 200 people. The FNPs also traveled with Rice to the Maine coast each summer, renting a house together for up to two weeks, and sketching, painting, and critiquing each other’s work.

The FNPs come home to GAC
After Dan Rice died in 2003, a number of FNPs returned to GAC to continue painting together on Friday nights – and for several years continued painting in Maine in the summer. New members joined, and now seven FNPs meet on Friday nights in Studio 6, which the group rents from GAC. Although the FNPs are now scattered from Connecticut to New York City to California, the whole group still finds opportunities to attend each other’s exhibitions; travel together to museums and galleries; meet to paint in various locales; gather for reunions; and stay in touch by Facebook and email.

The FNPs are truly “family.”

“The real value of this group is their rapport and openness to each other across lines of abstraction and representation. The group has become an organism that each person is able to give to and receive from, creating tremendous energies. It’s a rare thing.” — Dan Rice

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