McClain Gallery is pleased to present two simultaneous solo exhibitions of historic works by Sari Dienes (1898–1992) and Addie Herder (1920–2009). Dienes and Herder’s distinctive creative paths overlapped in the storied Sherwood Studios during the 1950s and 1960s. Sherwood Studios at 58 West 57th Street, New York, NY was built as a home to artists and writers in the nineteenth century and remained active until 1960. Both artists were adventurous in their approach to material experimentation, incorporating found objects in a way that exposed their keen awareness of the urban environment they inhabited. We are grateful to Pavel Zoubok Fine Art for their collaboration on these exhibitions.


During a career that spanned over six decades, Sari Dienes worked in a wide range of media, creating paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, ceramics, textile designs, sets and costumes for theater and dance, sound-art installations, mixed-media environments, music, and performance art. This exhibition focuses on Dienes’ work from the early 1950s and traces her evolution through the 1960s when she rejected her formal training to begin experimenting with new materials and techniques. The shift in her practice from painting and drawing towards “rubbings,” layering urban textures of manhole covers and sidewalks and assemblages of found objects into all-over abstraction can be firmly located in the Sherwood Studios. Upon taking up residency there in 1945, Dienes met and began a lifelong friendship with composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham. She quickly established herself in the epicenter of the art world during the 1950s, influencing artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, and Ray Johnson. Though widely exhibited during her lifetime, Dienes’ legacy is dominated by her powerful monoprints of subway grates and manhole covers. This exhibition articulates a formal sensibility that permeated all she created, tracking the development of her body of work through exuberant explorations in frottage, collage, and assemblage.

"Armed with an ink roller, she mapped her urban haunts as well as her body’s movement; uneven and ghostly skeins of pigment document her repetitive application of a standard-size brayer across the surface. Dienes placed drawing at the center of her practice while simultaneously challenging traditionally held views about the medium."

–text excerpt from Sari Dienes' 2014 solo exhibition at The Drawing Center, NYC, New York.

Dienes was born in Debreczen, Hungary, in 1898. From 1928–1935, she moved to Paris and then London where she studied with Fernand Léger, Amédée Ozenfant, André Lhote, and Henry Moore. In 1939, Dienes relocated to New York, where she would remain until her death. Dienes exhibited nationally and internationally from the early 1940s, with notable exhibitions at Betty Parsons Gallery in New York City and later as a founding member of the Feminist collective, A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been included in major museum exhibitions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island; the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts; and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. Recent exhibitions at The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas; The Drawing Center, New York, New York; Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York, New York; Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Beverly Hills, California; the Philadelphia Art Alliance at University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and McClain Gallery, Houston, Texas as well as new scholarship on her work have renewed interest in her life and work. Visit the Sari Dienes Foundation website for a narrative timeline.


While many of her contemporaries were filling enormous canvases with the barest of pictorial adornment, Addie Herder (American, 1920–2009) went her own way by creating complex facades and “machines” in spaces often no larger than a postcard. Herder used all manner of ephemera to create miniature architectural structures with a theatrical sense of atmosphere and depth. Reflected in the dark, shadowy interiors of her paper constructions is a mechanistic sensibility that underlies much of her work from the 1950s and 1960s. This period began in New York City at the Sherwood Studios and continued on the streets of Paris. Of the artist’s first solo exhibition at Pavel Zoubok Gallery, critic Roberta Smith concludes, “Herder emerges as a rarity: a kind of ventriloquist with a distinctive voice of her own who deserves a place in collage’s elaborate, still unfolding history.”

Trained at the Tyler School in Philadelphia during the late 1930s, Addie Herder moved to New York in 1946 with her then-husband Milton Herder. The two opened a successful commercial design business in a large studio in the Sherwood building, where Herder also met and befriended fellow artist Sari Dienes. After leaving the Sherwood Studios, Herder separated from her husband and relocated to Paris. Addie Herder’s work has been widely exhibited since the early 1970s and is represented in distinguished private and public collections, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York; the Neuberger Museum, Purchase, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, Massachusetts.