Beverly Fishman American, b. 1955


Beverly Fishman is a leading protagonist in the field of politically activated abstract art. An Anonymous Was A Woman Award Winner, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow, and National Endowment for the Arts Grantee, Fishman dedicates her studio practice to an aesthetic examination of people’s relationship with the business, politics and chemistry of healing.


For decades, Fishman's research has focused on the visual vocabulary that pharmaceutical designers deploy in their calculated efforts to market antidepressants, anxiolytics, amphetamines, anti-inflammatories, beta blockers, opioids, and other chemicals to the masses. Morphed and elevated by Fishman in her studio, these medicinal motifs become the building blocks for ecstatic, abstract visual cocktails that open doors to the aesthetic sublime.


Fishman’s luminescent, geometric relief paintings beguile the eyes. Along with their radiant material presence, their uncanny structures challenge viewers to look beyond the surface, to try to recall where it was that they have seen these curious shapes before. Epiphany is aided by the titles Fishman gives her paintings, which invoke a litany of ills, such as depression, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, opioid addiction, insomnia, and ADHD—these are pharmaceutical forms, abstracted from the pills we ingest every day to balance our bodies and minds.


Formal conceptual concerns related to movements such as Minimalism and Light and Space also guide Fishman’s practice, as does intuition. Among her most masterful aesthetic faculties is Fishman’s ability to create specialized, highly emotive color worlds for her exhibitions. 


“I think about the totality of the experience of the color,” Fishman says. “Color is mysterious to me.” 


Fishman’s materials list has included traditional supports, such as wood, paper, blown glass and aluminum, as well as unconventional elements, like cast resin, mirrored Plexiglass, powder-coated metal, and phosphorescent pigments. She also frequently uses mediums like chrome and urethane automotive paint that speak to the legacy of the Detroit area, where she lives and works.


The highly reflective automotive paint gives her paintings such highly polished surfaces that they seem to glow. That iridescent light radiates into the empty spaces in the forms, creating transcendent zones that speak both literally and metaphorically to the potential of voids. Like all important achievements in symbolism, Fishman’s pill reliefs transmit lasting truths about the human condition to those literate and brave enough to read between the shapes. 


One in five Americans today lives with chronic pain. One in seven lives with some kind of anxiety disorder.


Fishman’s phosphorescent blasts of geometric lucidity illuminate the shadowy battleground on which we fight against an unchecked Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex, to assert the right to understand and define our own bodies and identities. 


“Pharmaceuticals intersect with feminism,” Fishman says. “Women were given Valium for their nerves. Why were they nervous? Were they unsatisfied with their lives, with their options? They were anesthetizing an entire generation. Our culture’s relationship to medicine and science is complex. I’m in the unknown. Can abstraction be political and socially relevant? These are things I’ve always thought were important in my work.”


Recent major exhibitions of Fishman's work include FEELS LIKE LOVE, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL; Recovery, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, MI, USA; I Dream of Sleep, Miles McEnery, New York, NY, USA; Future Perfect, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, USA; Double Edged: Geometric Abstraction Then and Now, curated by Dr. Emily Stamey, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC, USA; DOSE, curated by Nick Cave, CUE Art Foundation, New York, NY, USA; Pill Spill, Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, MI, USA; and Beverly Fishman: In Sickness and in Health, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, USA. Fishman has received numerous awards, including the 2018 Anonymous Was A Woman Award; the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship; and the NEA Fellowship Grant. Work by Fishman is included in the collections of the MacArthur Foundation, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Chrysler Museum of Art, and many others. Fishman served as the head of painting and as artist-in-residence at the Cranbrook Academy of Art for twenty-seven years.

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