Soon after Donald Judd purchased his five-story cast iron building in SoHo, he commissioned David Novros to create a site-specific mural which was completed in 1970.

Why is David Novros Less Known?

Soon after Donald Judd purchased his five-story cast iron building in SoHo, he commissioned David Novros to create a site-specific mural which was completed in 1970. Judd’s conversations with Novros often centered around art and architecture, so he was aware of his friend’s interest in exploring architectural space with irregularly shaped, multi-paneled canvases and wall paintings, which Novros called “painting in place.” Here, Novros created his first fresco, developing a technique that would define his future practice. Judd’s home and studio, which have been meticulously restored, remain almost frozen in time, from when he and his family lived there, and are now operated by the Judd Foundation. Novros’ fresco still commands a presence on the second floor, and two of his multi-paneled works are now included in the exhibition David Novros: Paintings, on the ground floor.

Boathouse, (2016)

Novros was a member of the influential, but short lived, artist-run gallery Park Place, which Corrine Robins profiled in Arts Magazine (June, 1965). She noted that the gallery on West Broadway had launched six months earlier with a manifesto press release, yet there was no “look” to the gallery. “True,” Robins says, “the gallery’s ten members all work within a vaguely geometric, Hard Edge framework – but for the most part in a highly individual manner. And aside from this single common stylistic factor, their links appear to be social rather than aesthetic (a Lower East Side brotherhood type of thing).”  

Novros was soon exhibiting widely and fully immersed in the downtown artist community – a regular at Max’s Kansas City and friends with Carl Andre, Richard Chamberlain Brice Marden and James Rosenquist. Inspired by Judd, Novros would later buy his own building around the corner on Broome Street where he still lives and works today.

Installation of Mark di Suvero and David Novros at the Park Place Gallery (Photo by John D. Schiff)

Anne Hofne reviewed for Arts Magazine (May, 1965) Novoros’ first New York exhibition, a two-person installation with Mark di Suvero at Park Place. Her focus is on di Suvero, largely, whose work she admires, but she adds at the end: 

Novros’ shaped canvases are symmetrical in some cases or in two identical parts which interlock or touch, demonstrating what may lose its effectiveness over time: the tension between dark, bland cutouts and white wall.

Untitled (Graham Studio Mural II) (2006)

Throughout the 1970s, Novros’ name frequently appears in Arts Magazine articles and advertisements, but then it dwindles and almost disappears. While his paintings and murals evolve through the years, and the Judd-commissioned fresco is sublime, Hofne’s words are an interesting foreshadowing for a 1970s “it” artist whose articulate presence was seemingly ubiquitous. While Navros’ work is in prominent collections – including MoMA and the Whitney, and he is represented by Paula Cooper Gallery – his name is no longer as recognizable as many of his peers from the time. This might be because his success was partially related to the company he kept, or because his subtle wall works didn’t hold up, or it might just be that very few artists do remain a name in the artworld over time. 

David Novros – Paintings is on view at the Judd Foundation (101 Spring Street) from September 30 through December 18, 2022.

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