Suzan Frecon: Biography

Suzan Frecon is known for abstract oil paintings and works on paper that—as she describes her practice—“speak for themselves.” Made over long stretches of time, her work invites the viewer’s sustained attention: these, she says, “are not pictures that you look at. They are paintings that you experience.”

In Frecon’s paintings, composition serves as her foundational structure, holding color, material, and light; her compositions are characterized by asymmetrically balanced forms in precise spatial and proportional relationships. However, she has noted, “I use measurements for visual reasons, to achieve an unbalanced equilibrium.” The artist mixes pigments and oils to differing effects, and the visual experience of her work is heightened by her almost tactile use of color and contrasting matte and shiny surfaces. Colors and surfaces vary in terms of density and reflectivity, and areas in the compositions frequently shift between dark and light. Figure can become ground and ground can become figure in, as the artist defines it, a back-and-forth of full and empty space.

Frecon was born in 1941 in Mexico, Pennsylvania. Following a degree in fine arts from Pennsylvania State University in 1963, she spent three years at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and studied paintings in museums throughout Europe.


The artist’s work has been represented by David Zwirner since 2008. Previous solo shows with the gallery include recent painting (New York, 2010); paper (New York, 2013); oil paintings and sun (New York, 2015); watercolors and small oil paintings (London, 2017); recent oil paintings (New York, 2017); and Suzan Frecon (Hong Kong, 2018), which marked her first solo exhibition in Asia. In 2020, the solo exhibition oil paintings was on view at the gallery's New York location. At David Zwirner, London, recent paintings, oil and water was presented in 2022.

Frecon has exhibited widely in the United States and internationally. In 2008, her work was the subject of a major solo exhibition, form, color, illumination: Suzan Frecon painting, at The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, which traveled to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland. She has participated in a number of group exhibitions such as the 2000 and 2010 Whitney Biennials.

The artist was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2022. In 2016, Frecon received the Artist Award from the Artists’ Legacy Foundation in Oakland, California.

Public institutions that hold works by the artist include the Art Institute of Chicago; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, California; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland; The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas; The Morgan Library & Museum, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. She lives and works in New York.

1Suzan Frecon, “text and related work,” in Suzan Frecon: oil paintings and sun. Exh. cat. (New York: David Zwirner Books, 2015), p. 63.

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