Oil on cotton canvas, 1958. 1092x1245 mm; 43x49 inches. Signed in oil, lower right.
Provenance: gift from the artist; private collection, New York..
Exhibited: Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, January 26 - February 14, 1959.
New Born is a richly layered and significant painting by this important but often overlooked abstract painter. Its radiating spiral composition of lush red and violet forms epitomizes Thomas Sills experimental approach to painting. By the late 1950s, Sills was using a limited palette of two colors, and collapsed the figure ground relationship. His approach in New Born embodies the important mid-century transition from Abstract Expressionism to color field painting made by many leading abstract painters in the late 1950s.
Born in Castalia, North Carolina, the youngest of eleven children, Thomas Sills came to work in Harlem as a young man in the late 1920s. Upon moving to Greenwich Village in the late 1940s, Sills met Jeanne Reynal, the mosaicist and Surrealist. They married and Reynal introduced him to a wide range of artists from Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst to Willem De Kooning and Mark Rothko. Self-taught, Sills began to paint abstraction with various media beginning in the early 1950s. His career in New York was launched in 1955 with a solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery. He would go on to have three more solo exhibitions at Betty Parsons in 1957, 1959 and 1961, and solo exhibitions at Bodley Gallery in New York into the 1970s. Sills has been included in numerous group exhibitions - from the 1972 Contemporary Black Art in America at the Whitney Museum of American Art to the 1991 The Search for Freedom: African American Abstract Painting 1945-1975 at Kenkeleba House, New York. Sills's work today is found in numerous museum collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as well as numerous private collections. Fine pp. 158-160.