View of James Bishop’s 2014 exhibition at David Zwirner, New York.© JAMES BISHOP
One little work was enough. Sol Le Witt first mentioned painter James Bishop to James Rondeau in the late 1990s. Rondeau—then employed at Hartford’s Wadsworth Athenaeum and now the curator of contemporary art at the Art Institute of Chicago—would come to know the work only from reproductions until the winter of 2004, when, at a collector’s home, he saw one of Bishop’s diminutive paintings on paper. Impressed, Rondeau began to plan his own exhibition, eventually blending it with a European show that was already in formation. The resulting exhibition came to Chicago as part of the Art Institute’s “Focus” series. “James Bishop, Paintings on Paper 1959–2007” featured more than one hundred works on paper and three large paintings. A 1993 retrospective traveled to major museums in Switzerland, Germany, and France, but passed this country by. The Chicago show finally allowed US audiences to enjoy a sustained look at Bishop’s elusive brand of restrained painterliness.