THENEWART BOOK Por: Valeria Vega
THENEWART BOOK FISRT EDITION A GUIDE TROUGH TEN IMPORTANT CONTEMPORARY ABSTRACT ARTISTS It’s tempting to see the years 1912–25 and 1947–70 as the two golden ages of abstract art, and to feel that the present revival of abstraction is no more than a silver age. But the present is always deceptive: it was not evident to their contemporaries that Malevich, Mondrian, and Pollock were the towering giants they seem to us in retrospect. The fact is, there is a vast amount of good abstract art being made today, and the best of it is every bit as good as the best abstract art of the past. The golden age of abstraction is right now. This is a peek into 10 remarkable contemporary abstract artists.
JEAN PAUL RIOPELLE
Tomory dodge is one of the most recognized abstract contemporary artists. Dodgeâ€™s work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; The Saatchi Collection, London and The Zabludowicz Collection, London. His works will be included in 100 Painters of Tomorrow published by Thames & Hudson in autumn 2014. The artist lives and works in Los Angeles.
Modane Oil on canvas, 213.4 x 243.8 cm Tomory Dodge 2009 The Saatchi Gallery
TOMORY Tomory Dodge attended Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island from 1994 to 1998 majoring in painting. While at RISD he spent a year in Rome, Italy at the European Honors Program where his friendship with the painter Marc Handelman was forged. Dodge then moved to Seattle, Washington where he spent the next two years developing a new direction in his work, focusing away from the figure and more on urban landscapes. He then applied to graduate programs including Yale University and UCLA but was not accepted. He applied again the following year to California Institute of the Arts where he attended from 2002 through 2004. During this time he experimented and refined his technique forming a signature style of thick gestural mark-making. His devotion to the painterly medium was at first met with mixed reviews at a school that was known for its heavy emphasis on critical theory, but Dodge eventually vindicated his position through a refined and informed exploration between representation and material. Before Dodge had even finished his degree at CalArts he had caught the attention of a number of dealers in New York and Los Angeles.During the time that Dodge
was attending CalArts his younger brother Alex Dodge was working for CRG Gallery in New York an established contemporary art gallery in New York City. Dodge’s brother told him that one of the gallery’s artists, Russell Crotty, was teaching a class at CalArts and that he should consider taking it. Dodge decided to take the class where his work made a lasting impression on his professor. Crotty later urged CRG Gallery to consider the young artist’s work. In 2004 CRG Gallery offered Dodge representation in New York while ACME Gallery offered him representation in Los Angeles. At this time Dodge decided to exhibit under the name Tomory, his middle name, because of another artist already exhibiting in New York by the name Jason Dodge.
“Horrid, Torrid Times” Oil on canvas, 84 x 84 inches Tomory Dodge 2011 The Saatchi Gallery Though Dodge was represented by CRG Gallery in New York his first solo exhibition would be at Taxter & Spengeman in New York whom he had already agreed to have an exhibition with prior to his offer from CRG. The exhibition was a huge success and the beginning of a career that continues to grow. His work is known for his vibrant and active abstract paintings that combine gestural brushwork with a highly tuned color sense.
His paintings are simultaneously announcing themselves as paintings and as spaces, each layer fueled by the “endless temptation of finding new forms, new phenomena.”
Modane Oil on canvas, 213.4 x 243.8 cm Tomory Dodge 2009 The Saatchi Gallery
Born in Tokyo, Japan, Larry Poons became a prominent figure in Optical Art and in the Color-Field school of painting in New York. His paintings of the 1960s were characterized by dots of color placed according to a horizontal vertical and diagonal grid against a rich colored ground. The effect was a sense of movement--thus Optical Art. In 1965, he exhibited with the Op Artists, but the next year, his art became looser with small colored shapes floating in space. From that time, he changed to expressionism and abstraction.
Poons has also created Earth Art such as his “cracked earth landscapes”. For these he uses layers of heavy impasto to create the effect of flowing lava and craggy plateaus. A musician before becoming a painter, Larry Poons studied at the New England Conservatory of Music from 1955 to 1957, and was much influenced by the experimental compositions of John Cage. His interest in abstraction, especially the geometric forms of Piet Mondrian led him to painting, and in 1959, he studied at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. He resides in New York City and has maintained a studio in Florida. It is not surprising that Larry Poons’ gestural, emotional, and improvisational paintings are borne from an artist who originally studied to become a professional musician. In the 1960s, Poons left the New England Conservatory of Music to pursue a career in painting, a decision honored with nearly immediate success—Poons’ early works, Op art paintings of circles and dots, were included in a MoMA exhibition when he was just 28. These illusionistic paintings evoked rhythm and an underlying musicality, yet a move toward Abstract Expressionism would introduce an
even greater presence of the artist’s psyche is his work. In Poons’ action paintings, his gestures and energy were expressed through buckets of paint he had thrown at the canvas. Even his later works, painted by brush, recall the same energy in their expressive use of color and seemingly infinite number of frenetic brushstrokes. Robert Motherwell once said that every painter carries the history of the medium in her head. Obviously, as that head ages, the history only becomes larger and deeper. It’s daunting to think of the paintings and painters passing through Larry Poons’s mind these days. They seem to include Poussin, Claude, Cézanne, Renoir, Bonnard, early Picasso and always Pollock. At least those names can come to mind in front of Mr. Poons’s lush, teeming expanses of short, crazed, curling brush strokes, pastel colors and intimations — but only that — of landscape, bacchanals and Mediterranean sun.
Larry Poons untitled 2009 acrylic on canvas 67.25x114 inches Since emerging in the 1960s, Mr. Poons has shown a strong preference for allover fields of pulsing color, even if his means of achieving them have varied enormously. But at some point, They still fly, in pinks, lavenders, yellows, oranges and greens, usually drifting toward upper right. Sometimes, they are interrupted by hesitant lines or buildups of one color, but just as often they are applied sparsely, in a rush that leaves the canvas around them bare. Perhaps, past midway in lifeâ€™s journey, history sets you free. These are remarkably liberated, liberating paintings.
In Poonsâ€™ action paintings, his gestures and energy were expressed through buckets of paint he had thrown at the canvas.
Larry Poons Calling You 2009 acrylic on canvas 67.25x114 inches
Johns is best known for his painting Flag (1954â€“55), which he painted after having a dream of the American flag. His work is often described as a Neo-Dadaist, as opposed to pop art, even though his subject matter often includes images and objects from popular culture. Still, many compilations on pop art include Jasper Johns as a pop artist because of his artistic use of classical iconography. Johnsâ€™ treatment of the surface is often lush and painterly; he is famous for incorporating such media as encaustic and plaster relief in his paintings.
JOHNS, Jasper: Map 1961 Oil on canvas 198.1 x 312.7 cm
MOMA New York
Born in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns spent his early life in Allendale, South Carolina, with his paternal grandparents after his parents’ marriage failed. He then spent a year living with his mother in Columbia, South Carolina and thereafter he spent several years living with his aunt Gladys in Lake Murray, South Carolina, twenty-two miles from Columbia. He completed high school in Sumter, South Carolina, where he once again lived with his mother. Recounting this period in his life, he once said, “In the place where I was a child, there were no artists and there was no art, so I really didn’t know what that meant. I think I thought it meant that I would be in a situation different than the one that I was in.” In 1954, after returning to New York, Johns met Robert Rauschenberg and they became long-term lovers. For a time they lived in the same building as Rachel Rosenthal. In the same period he was strongly influenced by the gay couple Merce Cunningham (a choreographer) and John Cage (a composer). Working together they explored the contemporary art scene, and began developing their ideas on art. In 1958, gallery owner Leo Castelli discovered Johns while visiting
Rauschenberg’s studio. Castelli gave him his first solo show. It was here that Alfred Barr, the founding director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, purchased four works from his exhibition. In 1963, Johns and Cage founded Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, now known as Foundation for Contemporary Arts in New York City. Johns currently lives in Sharon, Connecticut and on the Island of Saint Martin. Until 2012, he lived in a rustic 1930s farmhouse with a glass-walled studio in Stony Point, New York. He first began visiting St. Martin in the late 1960s and bought the property there in 1972. The architect Philip Johnson is the principal designer of his home, a long, white, rectangular structure divided into three distinct sections. Early works were composed using simple schema such as flags, maps, targets, letters and numbers. JJohns played with and presented opposites, contradictions, paradoxes, and ironies, much like Marcel Duchamp (who was associated with the Dada movement). Johns also produces intaglio prints, sculptures and lithographs with similar motifs.
JOHNS, Jasper FLAG 1961 Oil on canvas 198.1 x 312.7 cm MOMA New York Johnsâ€™ breakthrough move, which was to inform much later work by others, was to appropriate popular iconography for painting, thus allowing a set of familiar associations to answer the need for subject.
Neo-Dadaists like Johns seemed preoccupied with a lessening of the reliance of their art on indexical qualities, seeking instead to create meaning solely through the use of conventional symbols.
Numbers in Color, 1958â€“ 59. Encaustic and newspaper on canvas. 66 1/2 x49 1/2 in.
MOMA New York
For over 45 years people across the world have enjoyed his pictures starting with his first solo exhibit in NYC in 1965 (he now has some 100). In 1987 Clement Greenberg proclaimed him one of the best five or six living painters. Bannard has received six national awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work is in the collections of all the major New York and US museums and several overseas. He is a prolific writer on art with over 100 published essays and reviews in ARTNews, Art Forum, Art in America and The New York Times.
Darby Bannard UNTITLED 1977 Acrylic on canvas 65 x 65 inches
Walter Darby Bannard (born September 23, 1934 in New Haven, CT), also known as Darby Bannard, is an American abstract painter. Bannard attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Princeton University, where he struck up a friendship and working relationship with Frank Stella, which continued after graduation and eventuated in the extreme minimalism both artists engaged in around 1959 and thereafter. The first paintings from the 1959-1965 period contained few forms, as little as a single band painted around a field of color, and then developed into somewhat more complex geometric forms by the mid-60s. In the late 60s the forms dissolved into pale, atmospheric fields of color applied with rollers and paint-soaked rags. He began using the new acrylic mediums in 1970 and his paintings evolved into colorful expanses of richly colored gels and polymers applied with squeegees and commercial floor brooms, which continues to the present. Bannard was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1968. Bannardâ€™s first solo show was at the Tibor de Nagy gallery in January, 1965 and he had exhibitions there until 1970. He began showing at the Lawrence Rubin
Gallery, and then in 1974 at the Knoedler Contemporary Gallery, where he showed for the next 15 years. Currently he shows at the Loretta Howard Gallery in New York City, the Daniel Weinberg Gallery in Los Angeles and the Center for Visual Communication in Miami, Florida. He has exhibited in numerous museums and galleries nationally and internationally to the present day. Bannard has had close to a hundred solo exhibitions, been in several hundred group shows and is represented in the collections of all the major New York museums and many others around the world. He is a prolific writer on art with over a hundred published essays and reviews; Bannard has taught, lectured and participated in panel discussions, and has been a Co-chair of the International Exhibitions Committee of the National Endowment for the Arts. He curated and wrote the catalog for the first comprehensive retrospective exhibition of the paintings of Hans Hofmann, at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. Currently Bannard is Professor and Head of Painting of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Miami.
Darby Bannard Chimera 2009 acrylic on canvas 65 X 65 inches
He was associated with Lyrical Abstraction, Minimalism, Formalism (art), Post-painterly Abstraction and Color Field painting.
Darby Bannard Dragon Water 1977 Acrylic on canvas 65 x 65 inches
Over the next few years whilst teaching art, Albers developed as a figurative artist and printmaker. He furthered his studies first part-time at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Essen where he studied lithography and then at The Royal Bavarian Art Academy in Munich, where he studied drawing. â€œIn my color book there is no new theory of color. But, in it, there is a way to learn to see.â€? Josef Albers.
josef albers BLACK&WHITE 1953 Oil on masonite 24 x 24 in
Josef Albers was born in Bottrop, Westphalia, Germany in 1888. From 1905-8 he studied to become a teacher in Büren, and went on to teach children in primary schools around Westphalia from 1908 and 1913. At this time, he taught “everything — reading, writing and arithmetic”. During this period he realised that he wanted to specialise in teaching art, and enrolled in Berlin’s Königliche Kunstschule in 1913 with this in mind. He qualified as an art teacher in 1915. In 1920, Albers enrolled at the prestigious Weimar Bauhaus school, which concentrated on the modern integration of architecture, fine art, and craft. Here, Albers concentrated on glass painting and took a preliminary course under the direction of Johannes Itten. After Nazi regime harrassment in 1933 as part of its campaign to suppress “degenerate art” (‘entartete kunst’), Albers joined the remaining faculty members in officially closing the Bauhaus. “Instead of art I have taught philosophy. Though technique for me is a big word, I never have taught how to paint. All my doing was to make people to see.” Josef Albers Originally published 1963 as a
limited edition, The ‘Interaction of Color’ was intended as a guide for artists, art teachers and students. It quickly became a classic design school text and remains as important to this day as when it was first published. The book contains a beautifully written and illustrated, consise statement of color theory – although Albers always maintained that he had not come up with, and was not attempting to put forward, any new theory of color, only a way of studying it. Josef Albers was both an artist and a teacher and has played a significant role in the history of 20th-century art. One of the most original of the 20th century painters, Albers is represented in some of the world’s best art museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art; Tate London and Hamberg Kunsthalle, among others. His theories about art and color were, and still are, powerful influences on a whole generation of artists, and his work, particularly with regards to perception and colour, was undeniably one of the major influences on the Op Art Movement. In 1971 (nearly five years before his death), Albers founded the Jo-
josef albers transparency 1953 Oil on masonite 24 x 24 in
sef and Anni Albers Foundation, a non-profit organization he hoped would further “the revelation and evocation of vision through art.”
This geometric abstraction was Albers’ brilliant and world-famous template for exploring the subjective experience of color.
josef albers interaction of color 1953 Oil on masonite 24 x 24 in
One sees the influence of Albers—as well as Russian Constructivism and Mondrian—in an untitled painting from Sihvonen’s 1980s “Ladder Series.” Here, a fragmentary vertical ladder motif, blue with diagonal brown stripes, buzzes against a background of differently angled diagonal stripes in black and red. Both form and color are carefully calibrated to produce a dynamic effect.
Oli Sihvonen Perfect Circle (from The Ellipse Series) 1969
If ever there were an artist’s career deserving of upward assessment, it is surely that of the under-known hard-edge abstract painter Oli Sihvonen (1921–1991). Aptly titled “Energy Fields,” this exhibition of 40 years’ work seemed to emanate both light and heat. On first-time viewers, it had the effect of a fireball. The astutely curated show, drawn from Sihvonen’s estate, offered a generous sampling of paintings from sequential periods in the artist’s career. There were clearly neither highs nor lows; Sihvonen worked with steady aplomb from the ‘50s to the years before his death. Although he is sometimes designated a “Taos Modernist,” this Finnish-American from Brooklyn trained with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College after World War II, absorbing the Bauhaus veteran’s lessons in color and, indirectly, making a connection with some of the seminal figures in European early modern abstraction. One sees the influence of Albers—as well as Russian Constructivism and Mondrian—in an untitled painting from Sihvonen’s 1980s “Ladder Series.” Here, a fragmentary vertical ladder motif, blue with diagonal brown stripes,
buzzes against a background of differently angled diagonal stripes in black and red. Both form and color are carefully calibrated to produce a dynamic effect. Other paintings from the “Ladders” were on view, along with selections from his “Ellipse” (1960s) and “3 x 3” (1970s) series. The late paintings are particularly exuberant. In a 45-inch-square untitled painting executed between 1986 and ‘91, Sihvonen’s capacity to juggle complex forms and ecstatic color combinations appears full-blown. This major work enmeshes figure and ground, as two ladder forms in contrasting striped palettes are roped together by a madly whirling spiral in black and white. Possibly Sihvonen experienced, in such deliriously orphic compositions as this, synesthetic musical vibes-of jazz, one might venture. The Sihvonens spent the 1947 spring and summer sessions in Volunton, Connecticut where they managed the family poultry farm while the Sihvonen parents were in Finland. They returned in the fall of 1947 for a year. At the end of the 1948 summer session, Oli Sihvonen drove their Model A Ford to Texas. From there the family moved to Taos where they lived for a year while Oli Sih-
OLI SIHVONEN Pink, Green. 1968 Oil on canvas 84 x 84 inches vonen continued his painting studies on the G.I. Bill. After a year in Taos, they then moved to Mexico City and from there to Washington, D.C. where they met Agnes O’Neill of the Georgetown Day School. She invited the Sihvonens to work at their summer camp in New England. At the end of the summer they were offered teaching positions at the Day School.
Here is a modern artist displaying a gift for sprezzatura, the quality seen in old masters who can pull off a stupendously difficult performance with total nonchalance.
Oli Sihvonen Ladder Oil on canvas 1984 68” x 72”
His childhood enthusiasm for making art became a hobby at this time, and he described himself as a Sunday painter with a constrained, academic style.
JEAN PAUL RIOPELLE
Hommage Ă Robert le diabolique 1953 Huile sur toile 200 x 282 cm
Jean Paul Riopelle began his career at the école polytechnique in 1941, pursuing engineering with some architecture and photography. His childhood enthusiasm for making art became a hobby at this time, and he described himself as a Sunday painter with a constrained, academic style. In 1942 he enrolled at the école des BeauxArts in Montreal but shifted his studies to the much less academic approach at the école du Meuble, graduating in 1945. There he studied with Paul-émile Borduas, a teacher who was extremely dedicated to his students and gave them a great deal of freedom. It was under Borduas’s direction that Riopelle made his first abstract painting. Borduas and several of his students, including Riopelle, formed a group that worked, socialized and exhibited together (1942-45). The group became known as the Automatistes for their spontaneous method of painting, which drew on the subconscious as a source. In 1946 Riopelle first travelled to France, where he would return and settle the following year. In 1948 Borduas authored the manifesto Refus global, which was signed by a number of his students, including Riopelle. Riopelle had his first solo exhibition at the Surrealist meeting place, Ga-
lerie La Dragonne in Paris, in 1949. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, he met and became friends with artists, writers and gallery owners including Georges Mathieu and Pierre Loeb, who introduced him to André Breton. He also met Jean Arp and Antonin Artaud at Loeb’s gallery. The coming years brought Riopelle increasing success and immersion in the Parisian cultural scene. He was represented in New York and participated in the biennials of contemporary art in Venice (1954) and Sao Paulo (1955). He spent his evenings in Paris bistros with friends including playwright Samuel Beckett and artist Alberto Giacometti. In the 1960s, Riopelle renewed his ties to Canada. Exhibitions were held at the National Gallery of Canada (1963), and the Musée du Quebec held a retrospective in 1967. In the early 1970s, he built a home and studio in the Laurentians. From 1974 he divided his
Jean-Paul Riopelle The Wheel II 1956 Huile sur toile 200 x 282 cm time between St. Marguerite in Quebec, and Saint-Cyr-en-Arthies in France. Riopelle participated in his last exhibition in 1996. From 1994 until his death, he maintained homes in both St. Marguerite and Isle-aux-Grues, Quebec.
Riopelle pioneered a style of painting where large quantities of varied coloured paints were thickly applied to the canvas with a trowel for such works as Pavane (1954) and The Wheel II (1956).
JEAN PAUL RIOPELLE Le petit cheval 1958 Huile sur toile 200 x 282 cm
When he was not drafted into the army as he had expected, he took up painting seriously. After two essentially accidental, transitional paintings, for the next 16 months he pencilled lines on raw canvases, partially filling in the open spaces with black house-paint. The process left stripes that appeared to have uncertain parameters between the pencilled lines. They became known as The Black Paintings, and four were first shown in 16 Americans (1959â€“60) at the Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition from which the museum purchased The Marriage of Reason and Squalor (1959; New York, MOMA).
Frank Stella “Kyalami” 1979 PAUL KASMIN GALLERY
American painter and printmaker. In his career he was an innovator, rather than responding to the innovations of others, and he often confounded his peers. He suggested that his painting was significantly shaped by the fact that he was among the first generation of artists for whom the rightful existence of abstraction was assumed, and he steadfastly maintained that it was the only post-war idiom capable of sustaining the highest ambitions for painting. In 1950 Stella entered the Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, where he studied art history and painting; it was here that he realized that he had no interest in representational painting. Stella continued his studies in history at Princeton University (BA, 1958). At this time he was painting loose, gestural abstractions in the tradition of the New York School. He kept in touch with developments in New York and in 1958 he saw Jasper Johns’s first one-man exhibition. Johns’s canvases, although painted with the visible brushmarks of Abstract Expressionism, were just what they appeared to be: flags and targets. Stella was impressed not only by this factuality, which later motivated him to say of his own work, ‘What you see is what
you see’, but also by the geometric patterns of rings and stripes that formed the images. After graduation Stella moved to New York with the intention of staying there to paint for the summer only. From that time Stella consistently developed his increasingly complex variations on selected themes in a highly organized, cyclical manner that for many years allowed little room for spontaneity. In 1960 he held his first one-man show in New York, at the Leo Castelli Gallery, exhibiting striped canvases called the Aluminum Paintings that extended the explorations of The Black Paintings. He later indicated that his intention in these works was not to reject completely the lush brushwork of Abstract Expressionism, as often suggested, but rather to insist on the development of an overall surface through negating any illusionism that visible brushstrokes or advancing and receding colours might imply. In the Benjamin Moore Paintings (1961), such as Island No. 10 (1961; Franklin, MI, S. and M. Forbes priv. col., see L. Rubin, p. 137) the bands or stripes became more formalized and the edges more precise. Colour was introduced as an arbitrary element: each of the canvases was painted
frank stella Wolfeboro III 1966 Flourescent alkyd paint on canvas + Sabra I Acrylic on shaped canvas
in a single primary or secondary colour of a brand of commercial house-paint, to which the title of the series paid tribute, applied to the surface in one of six distinctive patterns. With such works Stella was already paving the way for Minimalism at the moment that Pop art was beginning to emerge. Two more series were painted, including a set of six canvases for Andy Warhol in 1962 (305Ă—305 mm; now in New York, Brooklyn Mus.).
The time was to be spent studying Italian painting and the result was his discovery of the spatial assaults of Caravaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt and VelĂĄzquez.
frank stella Jarama II 1982 National Gallery of Art
Soulagesâ€™ early paintings were often of leaf-less trees in winter, with the black branches contrasting against the background sky. After returning back to his hometown after his brief stay in Paris, he met Sonia Delaunay, with whom he discovered abstract art.
pierre soulages Peinture 200x162 cm 1960 Huile sur toile
A painter, printmaker and sculptor, Soulages was born at Rodez, Aveyron in France. Influenced by the Celtic carvings in the local museum and by the Romanesque art and architecture of that region, he began to take an interest in art and began to paint. He went to Paris in 1938, where he saw the exhibitions of Picasso and Cézanne, and briefly studied at the Ecole des BeauxArts. Soulages’ early paintings were often of leaf-less trees in winter, with the black branches contrasting against the background sky. After returning back to his hometown after his brief stay in Paris, he met Sonia Delaunay, with whom he discovered abstract art. In 1946, he moved back to Paris and began to make his first non-figurative works in 1947. At this time he came in contact with other artists such as Picabia and Léger, and took part in the Salon des Superindépendants. His paintings were characterized by heavy, broad black gestures on a light ground. Often, he would let the tools dictate the aesthetic effect of his paintings, using a wide rubber spatula or roller brushes instead of the traditional paintbrush. In 1949, at the Galerie Lydia Conti, Paris, Soulages had his first solo
exhibition. In 1952, he made his first etchings. After 1955, he began to paint with even looser, slashing brushstrokes, sometimes with more fluid washes of color. Soulages also worked in other media, designing sets and costumes. In 1987 he designed the monumental tapestry for the French Finance Ministry. Soulages is considered the greatest French painter of his generation and has received recognition worldwide. In 1979, Pierre Soulages was made a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. From 1987 to 1994, he produced 104 stained glass windows for the Romanesque Abbey church Sainte-Foy in Conques (Aveyron, France). A composition he created in 1959 sold for 1.200.000 euros at Sotheby’s in 2006. In 2007, the Musée Fabre of Montpellier devoted an entire room to Soulages, presenting his donation to the city. This donation includes twenty paintings dating from 1951 to 2006, among which are major works from the 1960s, two large plus-black works from the 1970s, and several large polyptychs. A retrospective of his art was held at the Centre National d’Art et de
pierre soulages 1967 202.7 x 143.8 cm oil on canvas Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria
Culture Georges Pompidou from October 2009 to March 2010. In 2010, the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico presented a retrospective of Soulagesâ€™ paintings that also included an interview-video with the painter.
Soulages is the first living artist invited to exhibit at the state Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg and later with the Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow (2001).
pierre soulages black & blue 1969 162 x 130cm
Sam Francis was born in San Mateo, California, the son of Katherine Lewis Francis and Samuel Augustus Francis, Sr. The 1935 death of his mother, who had encouraged his interest in music affected him deeply, but he later developed a strong bond with his stepmother, Virginia Peterson Francis. Francis served in the United States Air Force during World War II before being injured during test flight maneuvers. He was in the hospital for several years, and it was while there, after being visited by artist David Park in 1945, that he began to paint.
sam Francis Untitled SF-257 1980 160 x 132 cm
Once out of the hospital he returned to Berkeley, this time to study art. He received both his BA degree (1949) and MA degree (1950) from University of California, Berkeley, where he studied botany, medicine and psychology. Francis was initially influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Clyfford Still. He later became loosely associated with a second generation of abstract expressionists, including Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, who were increasingly interested in the expressive use of color. through a series of stages, beginning with monochromatic abstractions, followed by larger richly-colored murals and “open” paintings that feature large areas of whiteness. Francis painted large murals for the Kunsthalle, Basel in 1956-8 and for the Chase Manhattan Bank, New York in 1959. Between 1960 and 1963 created several series of works, including the “Blue Balls” series. Consisting of biomorphic predominantly blue forms and drips, these works referenced the pain that resulted from the renal tuberculosis that he suffered in 1961. Francis returned to California during the 1960s and continued
painting, mainly in Los Angeles, but also in Tokyo where he lived primarily in 1973-4. In 1965 Francis started a series of paintings that featured large areas of open canvas, minimal color and strong line. Francis’ works of the early 1970s have been referred to as Fresh Air pictures. Created by adding pools, drips and splatters of color to wet bands of paint applied with a roller, these works re-asserted the artist’s interest in color. By 1973-4 many of Francis’ paintings featured a formal grid or matrix made up of crossing tracks of color. Many of these matrix works were large in scale, measuring up to twenty feet long. After 1980 the formal structure of the grid gradually disappeared from Francis’ work. He was extremely active as a printmaker, creating numerous etchings, lithographs and monotypes, many of which were executed in Santa Monica at the Litho Shop, which Francis owned. In 1984 Francis founded The Lapis Press with the goal of producing unusual and timely texts in visually compelling formats. During the last year of his life, suffering from prostate cancer and unable to paint with his right hand after a fall, in a final burst of ener-
up and left: sam francis in his New York Studio. left: untitled 1981 154 x 120 gy he used his left hand to complete a dazzling series of about 150 small paintings before he died. He was buried in Olema, in Marin County, California.
After his 1953 painting “Big Red” was included in the 1956 exhibition “Twelve Artists” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Francis began a rapid rise to international prominence.
sam francis mandala 1975 90 x 70 cm
Published on Apr 1, 2014