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Identifier: MC 1454

Deborah Remington Papers


  • about 1880-2010, bulk 1949-2010

Scope and Content Note

The Deborah Remington Papers consist of eleven cubic feet of materials, comprising eleven record center cartons spanning the period of about 1880 to 2010, although the bulk of the collection dates from 1949-2010. About nine-tenths of the collection is in English, with the remaining ten percent composed of Japanese lessons and writings, Cantonese lessons, as well as correspondence in French with Darthea Speyer Galerie. The collection is divided into ten series. The strengths of the collection reside in the detailed documentation of her artistic career, which undoubtedly bled into her personal life.

The majority of the collection centers on Deborah Remington's professional life as a visual artist. Professional Correspondence (1949-2007) files as well as the GALLERY AND MUSEUM RECORDS (1951-2007) detail her immense involvement in every aspect of creating, marketing, selling, and exhibiting her artwork. This includes the creation of a unique "Buyer's Agreement," which a potential buyer would have to fill out and submit to Remington. The agreement stated that the work of art was not to be donated to certain types of collections and institutions. Although GALLERY AND MUSEUM RECORDS contains a folder for the 6 Gallery, of which she was a founding member, there is hardly any information on the gallery. Two postcards survive directly from that time as well as correspondence with other founding members after the fact, in which they reminisce about the 1950s.

Remington took great care to document all aspects of her art. ARTWORK DOCUMENTATION FILES (1952-2010) contain collection lists, a detailed exhibition history for each artwork, and indicate where certain prints were made. The Tamarind Institute files contain information on color specifications, printing techniques and edition numbers. Meanwhile PHOTOGRAPHS (about 1880-2004) document Remington's paintings, drawings, and prints from her early San Francisco Art Institute paintings well into the 2000s. Unfortunately, almost all of the images are in black and white. Included in PHOTOGRAPHS are photos from her trip to Japan, which greatly influenced her life and style of art. Of special note, a group of photographs from 1955 depict Remington in costumes, posing for the camera. The images have no explanation; however in them, Remington appears to be exploring ideas of costume and gender: a typical early feminist trope elaborated on by the likes of Nancy Youdelman and Cindy Sherman.

Included in Remington's effort to document her career, ARTICLES AND ESSAYS (1950-2005) contain clippings, reviews, longer articles and unpublished essays regarding her artwork. Of note are essays and reviews by Dore Ashton, in which she takes a philosophical standpoint to both describe and contextualize Remington's work. EXHIBITION CATALOGS (1954-2009) contain both small and large publications of group exhibitions she was a member of.

Finally, TEACHING AND LECTURE FILES (1963-2007) document how Remington's career as a teacher at several institutions sustained her ability to live as an artist, as well as how her students influenced her thinking. Included in this series are guest lecture schedules, as well as correspondence with student assistants. Of special interest are the files on Cooper Union, which detail her legal struggle with the art department in the 1990s, over what Remington perceived to be sexism and ageism.

The remainder of the collection centers on Remington's personal life. General Correspondence (1945-2007) details Remington's friendships with artists like Jay DeFeo, critic Arlene Raven and childhood friend Norma Linsley. PHOTOGRAPHS (about 1880-2005) depict Remington's family and friends, as well as intimate portraits that capture her beauty. PERSONAL DOCUMENTS (1949-2010 and undated) collect information about Remington's early life, as well as her day-to-day life. Of special note in this series are Remington's creative writings, both written for school and outside of school, as they link her thinking to other Beat poets and artists who worked in both the written word and the image. Lastly, EPHEMERA (1888-1998 with gaps) contains small artwork by Deborah Remington and Knute Stiles, the key to the city of Oakland, California, and a playbill of a production that she and Don Johnson performed in when they were married.


11 Cubic Feet (11 record center cartons)

Language of Materials

English, Japanese, French, and Chinese


The Deborah Remington Papers chiefly contain the visual artist's personal and professional correspondence, as well as an extensive documentation of her artwork found in detailed lists, photographs, and institutional sales and exhibition records. Included in the collection are photographs of her trip to Japan, which greatly influenced her artistic style, her miscellaneous creative and school writings from her time at the San Francisco Institute of the Arts, and her legal struggles with Cooper Union.

Biographical Sketch

Deborah Remington was a printmaker and painter working primarily in an abstract manner throughout her life. She was born in Haddonfield, NJ in 1930. The Western painter Frederic Remington was her first cousin, twice removed. At the age of nine, she began to take painting and drawing lessons at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art, where she was placed in life drawing classes with students twice her age. After the death of her father when she was a teenager, she and her mother lived sporadically in Canada, until finally residing in Pasadena, CA where Remington attended high school and continued to paint. After graduating, Remington along with Hayward King, John Ryan, and Wally Hedrick (with whom she was friends) attended California Institute of the Arts, later to be renamed the San Francisco Institute of the Arts in 1953. Remington's work centered on painting, aiming to express an abstract quality. Remington received a certificate of completion from the California School of the Arts in 1953. That summer she met, and subsequently married the poet Don Johnson. The marriage would last less than a year, and Remington would never re-marry, choosing instead to focus on her career.

Re-enrolling at San Francisco Art Institute in 1954 in order to complete her bachelor's degree, Remington studied painting under abstract expressionist Clyfford Still. Her own paintings dealt with space and light in an abstract form. Between 1953 and 1964 Remington was involved in the Beat scene: exhibiting in solo and group shows at galleries like King Ubu Gallery, and later Dilexi Gallery. In 1954, she founded along with Hayward King, John Ryan, Wally Hedrick, Jack Spicer and David Simpson, the infamous 6 Gallery (1). The gallery functioned as a co-op and focused on promoting up-and-coming artists, as well as poets. 6 Gallery was where Allen Ginsberg first read the completed poem "Howl" on October 7, 1955. Upon graduation with a BFA in fine arts in 1955, Remington traveled to Japan and Southeast Asia for two years in order to study calligraphy. Japanese culture directly impacted her artwork, causing her imagery to change. Her work became atypical of any style, in the sense that her abstract imagery was at once hard-edged but also seemed to radiate light. Remington moved away from painting at this time to pursue printmaking.

In 1965 Remington moved to New York City and obtained a loft in the Soho district, which was at the time a neighborhood dominated by artists' studios. Sustaining her career by teaching at Cooper Union (1973-1997), and regularly showing at national and international galleries such as Bykert Gallery and Darthea Speyer Gallery, Remington maintained a constant presence in the art world. In 1983 the Newport Harbor Art Museum hosted a twenty-year retrospective of her work which travelled to several other American institutions. This success was followed in 1984 by a Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed her to again, distinctly alter her imagery. Remington returned to painting, adding a more gestural approach to her previously hard-edged abstraction.

From 1993 to 1996 Remington struggled with her employer, Cooper Union. Of noted interest is her response, through documentation lists of occurrences, correspondence with heads of departments, and finally her legal action against Cooper Union, to what she perceived as subtle sexism in the workplace. In the 1990s and 2000s, Remington's work was featured in historical group exhibitions focused on highlighting Beat Generation and 1950s Bay Area culture. Deborah Remington passed away from cancer in 2010.


(1) There is some variation on the spelling on 6 Gallery. Beat Generation and Beyond published by John Natsoulas Press in 2004 switches between the number and word, citing "6" gallery in photographs of events (pages 9 and 12) and in the timeline of Beat history (page 8). However, in John Natsoulas' "Preface" he repeatedly writes Six Gallery (pages 3-4). The proper name of the gallery is 6 Gallery. Albert Frankenstein's first review of the gallery ("'6' Informal Gallery with more than Visual Arts." San Francisco Chronicle, (Nov 17, 1954): no page) names 6. An oral history interview with Deborah Remington found at Inside and Around the 6 Gallery with Co-Founder Deborah Remington states that the gallery name was numerical on purpose. The two postcards found in this collection name the space as 6 Gallery.

Arrangement Note

All files are arranged alphabetically by subject or surname, except for photographs and articles which are arranged chronologically. All folders are arranged chronologically, with the exception of correspondence which is grouped by individual and then chronologically. This exception follows the original order.

Inventory to the Deborah Remington Papers
Edited Full Draft
Stephanie Crawford and Fernanda Perrone
July 2015
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.