David Novros papers, 1963-2008

A Finding Aid to the David Novros Papers, 1963-2008, in the Archives of American Art, by Catherine S. Gaines

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Biographical Information

David Novros (1941-) is an abstract painter in New York, NY.

Abstract painter David Novros was born in Los Angeles in 1941 and lived with his family in Van Nuys, California. His father, Lester Novros, was an artist whose interest in movement eventually led him to the Walt Disney Company, where he worked on animation projects. In 1941 he established his own production company, Graphic Films, and began teaching in the Cinema Department of the University of Southern California. Both David and his brother Paul were enamored with film; David turned to painting, but Paul followed in their father's line of work and became an award-winning film producer.

David entered the University of Southern California and studied painting with James Jervaisee. He made a few student films and sometimes worked with his father, but before long he turned to painting. During the summer of 1961, Novros attended courses at Yale and met Chuck Close, Brice Marden, and Vija Celmins.

After earning a B.F.A. in 1963, Novros completed his Army Reserve obligations and travelled in Europe. He moved to New York City in 1964 and met many Minimalist artists. Over the next several years, Novros's rectangular paintings gave way to multi-panel paintings and then to shaped panels. From the late 1960s through the 1970s, Novros developed a reputation as a geometric abstractionist. He showed at Park Place Gallery and had a solo exhibition at Virginia Dwan Gallery (Los Angeles) in 1966; the next year, his work was again presented at Park Place Gallery and at the Virginia Dwan Gallery (New York). Several solo exhibitions followed at Klaus Kertess's influential Bykert Gallery, as well as at other venues.

Novros participated in important exhibitions of abstraction, among them "Systemic Painting" (Guggenheim Museum, 1966), "Color and Structure" (Whitney Museum of American Art, 1971), and "Abstract-Geometry-Painting: Selected Geometric Abstract Painting in America since 1945" (Albright-Knox Gallery, 1989). In 1970, he was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.

In the 1970s, Novros turned to fresco painting, and his eventual decision to focus on murals effectively removed him from the commercial gallery scene. One of his earliest commissions was a fresco painted in 1970 for the second floor of Donald Judd's studio/home. Other commissions include: Solar Triptych, a radial triptych that opens and closes throughout the day, for the lobby of Union Station, Newark, NJ (1984); a fresco in the Old Court House, Miami (1984); a painted-glass and copper fresco in the Gross Building, Winslow, Arizona (1994-1996); and the Liaunig Boat House with fresco paintings, Middleburgh, NY (1996-2003). A number of museums in the United States and Europe include Novros's work in their permanent collections, among them: Menil Collection, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum Liaunig (Austria), and Daimler contemporary (Berlin).

Mr. Novros lives and works in New York City.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of abstract painter David Novros are dated 1963 to 2008, and measure 1.0 linear foot. Correspondence, records relating to the Liaunig Boat House commission (Middleburgh, NY), interview transcripts, printed material, and photographs document the painter's professional career.

The vast majority of correspondence consists of incoming letters. The only reciprocal exchanges preserved are with art historian Charles Hope and the Menil Collection. Letters are from artists Rory McEwen, Paul Mogensen, and Ken Price; writers Frances Colpitt and Claudine Humblet; and from other colleagues and friends. The letters David Novros wrote to his family between 1963 and 1979 recount his travels and describe in some detail - many with accompanying illustrations and diagrams - work in progress, exhibitions, and commissions. Also preserved are copies of his letters to the Trustees of the Donald Judd Estate and Ranier Judd concerning the Marfa, Texas properties and projects, his Spring Street studio in New York City, and the Judd Foundation. Novros's letters to editors concern art-related articles that appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other publications.

Peter Liaunig's commission for a boat house with three fresco paintings in Middleburgh, New York, is documented by correspondence, plans, and designs. The "Boat House Diary, Middleburgh, NY," kept by Novros August 10-15, 2003, describes the process of painting the frescoes with the assistance of Jason, and notes materials and techniques used.

Interview transcripts are of Phong Bui's conversation with David Novros, published June 2008 in The Brooklyn Rail, and an unpublished interview Novros conducted with sculptor Robert Graham in 2008.

Printed material about or mentioning David Novros consists of articles and reviews, exhibition announcements and posters. Items written by Novros are a review of Jackson Pollock and two poems.

Photographs are of David Novros with his family and friends. There are also views of the Novros family's home in Van Nuys, California, and Indian-painted rocks at Sears Point, Arizona that influenced Novros' art.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 5 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:

Subjects:

  • Pollock, Jackson, 1912-1956
  • Judd, Donald, 1928-

Subjects-Topical:

  • Painters--New York (State)--New York
  • Painting--Technique

Types of Materials:

  • Interviews
  • Illustrated letters
  • Poems
  • Diaries
  • Transcripts

Names:

  • McEwen, Rory, 1932-
  • Humblet, Claudine, 1946-
  • Hope, Charles
  • Colpitt, Frances
  • Bui, Phong, 1964-
  • Graham, Robert, 1938-
  • Price, Kenneth, 1935-

Provenance

Gift of David Novros, 2009

Separated and Related Materials

An oral history interview with David Novros was conducted by Michael Brennan for the Archives of American Art in 2008.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed by Catherine S. Gaines in 2010.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The David Novros papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

David Novros papers, 1963-2008. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Correspondence, 1963-2008
(Boxes 1-2; 0.4 linear ft.)

Correspondence with art historian Charles Hope regards a letter to the editor of The New York Review of Books written by Novros in response to Hope's exhibition review of "Venice and the North." Novros's correspondence with the Menil Collection and Menil Foundation concerns the acquisition and exhibition of his work, with notes and background information.

The vast majority of correspondence consists of incoming letters. Found here are letters from artists Rory McEwen, Paul Mogensen, and Ken Price. Rory McEwen, who wrote over an extended period, sent a small, undated watercolor portrait of himself working in the kitchen with his wife. Enclosed with Frances Colpitt's letters are manuscripts of her review of Minimalism by James Meyer, a catalogue entry about David Novros for the Blanton Museum of Art's exhibition "Reimagining Space: the Park Place Gallery Group in 1960s New York," and a copy of a letter she sent to Donald Judd's daughter about his estate. Letters from Claudine Humblet concern her book, La Nouvelle Abstraction Américaine de 1950 à 1970, and include a copy of "David Novros: ou la quête d'un art classique."

Letters that David Novros wrote to his family between 1963 and 1979 recount his travels and describe in some detail work in progress, exhibitions, and commissions; they often include diagrams and illustrations. His letters to the Trustees of the Donald Judd Estate and Ranier Judd are about Judd's Marfa, Texas properties and projects, his New York City studio on Spring Street, and the Judd Foundation. Novros's letters to editors concern art-related articles that appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other publications.

Box Folder
1 1 Bober, Michael (cousin), 1976-2009, undated
1 2 Colpitt, Frances, circa 1999-2008
1 3 Cooper, Paula - Cuomo, Mario, 1990-1992
  • Cooper, Paula
  • Cuomo, Mario
1 4 Editors, Letters to, 1988-2008,
1 5 Goldmark, Steve, 1987
1 6 Hope, Charles, 1999
1 7 Humblet, Claudine, 1999-2007
1 8 Irish Museum of Modern Art, 1992
1 9 Judd, Donald (Estate of), 1997-1999
1 10-11 McEwen, Rory, 1973-1982, undated
(2 folders)
1 12 Meanders, Nabuko Yoshizawa, 2007
1 13 Menil Collection, 1987-2008, undated
1 14 Mogensen, Paul, 2003-2009
1 15 Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2003
1 Novros Family (see also: Bober, Michael)
1 16 Father to David, 1991
1 17 Paul (brother) to David, 2007, undated
1 18-22 David to Family, 1963-1979, undated
(5 folders)
1 23 Price, Ken - Whitney Museum of American Art, 1999-2001
  • Price, Ken
  • Whitney Museum of American Art
1 24 Unidentified, 1992-2006, undated
  • Bonnie
  • Dee[lun?]
  • Josef
  • Phil

Series 2: Liaunig Boat House, 1998-2004
(Box 2, OV3; 0.2 linear ft.)

Among the designs for painted fresco walls are many small drawings in ink and color pencil. Description and narrative consists of a printed sheet with building specifications, and "Boat House Diary, Middleburgh, NY" kept by Novros. Diary entries dated Aug. 10-15, 2003 describe the process of painting the frescoes with the assistance of Jason, and note materials and techniques used.

Box Folder
2 1 Correspondence, 1998-2004, undated
2 2 Description and Narrative, 2002-2003
2 3 Designs for Painted Fresco Walls (original drawings), 2001, undated
2 Plans
2 4 Original Drawings, undated
2 5 Original Drawings, 2001, undated
(oversized material housed in OV3)
2 6 Photocopies, 2001-2002, undated
2 7 Photographs, undated
Box
OV 3 Liaunig Boat House - Oversized Plans (original drawings), 2001, undated
(oversized material from box 2, folder 5)

Series 3: Interview Transcripts, 2008
(Box 2; 0.1 linear ft.)

Phong Bui's interview with David Novros was published in The Brooklyn Rail, June 2008. The interview Novros conducted with scuptor Robert Graham is unpublished.

Box Folder
2 8 "David Novros in Conversation with Phong Bui [editor of The Brooklyn Rail" (third edit; final edit), 2008
2 9 "Robert Graham in conversation with David Novros," 2008

Series 4: Printed Material, 1966-2008
(Box 2, OV 4; 0.2 linear ft.)

Printed material about or mentioning David Novros consists of articles and reviews, exhibition announcements and posters. Items written by Novros are a review of a Jackson Pollock exhibition and two poems.

Box Folder
2 About/Mentioning David Novros
2 10-11 Articles, 1966-2008, undated
(2 folders)
2 12 Exhibition Announcements, 1968-1979
2 13 Exhibition Posters, 1966-1979
(oversized material housed in OV4)
2 14 By David Novros (exhibition review; poems), 1967, 2008
Box
OV 4 About/Mentioning David Novros - Exhibition Posters, 1966-1979
(oversized material from box 2, folder 13)

Series 5: Photographs, 1976-1999
(Box 2; 0.1 linear ft.)

Photographs of Novros with family and include: brother Paul, Robert Graham, Rory and Romana (Ruby) McEwen, and unidentified individuals. Among the pictures of places are the Novros family's home in Van Nuys, California, and rocks at Sears Point, Arizona, painted with Indian images that influenced his art.

Box Folder
2 15 David Novros, 1976-1995, undated
2 16 David Novros with Others, 1976-1999, undated
2 17 Unidentified Individual, 1976
2 18 Arizona (Sears Point painted rocks), undated
2 19 California (childhood home, Van Nuys; unidentified landscapes), undated
2 20 Nevada, undated
2 21 Unidentified Landscapes and Buildings, 1976, undated