Rosemary Mayer in her Tribeca studio, ca. 1976.
Rosemary Mayer (1943-2014) was a prolific artist involved in the New York art scene beginning in the late 1960s. Most well-known for her large-scale sculptures made with fabric, she also created works on paper, artist books, and outdoor installations, exploring themes of temporality, history, and biography. During the 1970s she had exhibitions at various New York City alternative spaces, including one of the earliest shows at A.I.R Gallery, the first cooperative gallery for women, of which she was a founding member. She was also a critic and writer, contributing to various journals of artists writings and creating an issue of the magazine Art-Rite. Her interest in art history, and particularly the artists of the Mannerist period, resulted in her translation of the diary of Jacopo da Pontormo, which was published alongside a catalog of her work by Out of London Press in 1982. Beginning in the 1990s, she became focused on teaching art, eventually becoming a professor at LaGuardia Community College in Queens.
Since Mayer’s death in 2014, her estate has helped to organize exhibitions and publications of her work, beginning with an exhibition at Southfirst Gallery in Brooklyn in 2016 and the publication of excerpts from her 1971 journal. In 2020, her work was introduced to European audiences through Nick Mauss’s exhibition, “Bizarre Silks, Private Imaginings and Narrative Facts, etc.,” at Kunsthalle Basel and her first solo exhibition there, “Rods Bent Into Bows,” at ChertLüdde in Berlin. In 2021, a solo show at Gordon Robichaux in New York entitled “Pleasures and Possible Celebrations,” focused on her installations with balloons and related work. Her work was also included in Greater New York 2021 at MoMA PS1, in “Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces,” at MoMA and in “SIREN (some poetics)” at the Amant Foundation in Brooklyn in 2022.
The first institutional survey of her work, “Ways of Attaching,” opened at the Swiss Institute in New York in Fall of 2021. It was reviewed in various publications, including Artforum, The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, and The Brooklyn Rail. The show was organized in partnership with Ludwig Forum, Aachen; Lenbachhaus, Munich; and Spike Island, Bristol, where the exhibition traveled in 2022. A catalogue of this show was published in 2022.
Mayer’s work in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Lenbachhaus, Munich, and numerous private collections.
The Estate of Rosemary Mayer installing her sculpture Portae (1974), for the exhibition "Future Variations," at Soft Network, 2022. Photo by Sara VanDerBeek.