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Al Held Brushstrokes India Ink Drawings from 1960


Al Held Brushstrokes India Ink Drawings from 1960


Van Doren Waxter is proud to present an exhibition of 29 India ink drawings by Al Held, a crucial figure of American Abstraction. Completed in 1960, these rarely exhibited works on paper were largely unseen during Held's lifetime and offer a new perspective on the artist’s attempts to advance ideas of form and space in contemporary painting. A departure from Held’s more recognizably hard-edged, overlapping geometric abstractions, these are spare works consisting of one or two brushstrokes of black ink on waxed paper. Disarmingly simple, they are not considered studies but rather a series unto itself, existing as an exacting visual preamble to his larger-scale statements on perception and depth of field. In their scale and willingness to subsume massive swaths of the visual field, the works in Brushstrokes share a theoretic disposition with the architectural forms of Held’s “Taxi Cab” paintings of 1959-60. The India ink drawings exhibit the essence of brush stroke as form that Held further evolves in the “Taxi Cabs” by engaging scale and color. Whereas the “Taxi Cabs” sought to impose order, the India ink drawings selected for this exhibition exist as far more liberated, near-organic forms.

Al Held c. 1963 in 5th Ave Studio, Genesis in progress (photo credit Rudolph Burckhardt) 2


60-160, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-31, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 24 inches (45.7 x 61 cm)

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60-88, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 24 inches (45.7 x 61 cm)

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60-112, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-82, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-127, 1960 India ink on paper 18 1/4 x 24 inches (46.4 x 61 cm)

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60-141, 1960 India ink on paper 18 1/4 x 24 inches (46.4 x 61 cm)

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60-89, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-81, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-11, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-152, 1960 India ink on paper 18 1/4 x 24 inches (46.4 x 61 cm)

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60-16, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-56, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-4, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-107, 1960 India ink on paper 18 1/4 x 24 inches (46.4 x 61 cm)

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60-7, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-10, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-137, 1960 India ink on paper 18 1/4 x 24 inches (46.4 x 61 cm)

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60-127, 1960 India ink on paper 18 1/4 x 24 inches (46.4 x 61 cm)

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60-104, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-125, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-126, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-106, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-167, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-5, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-136, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-184, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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60-97, 1960 India ink on paper 18 1/4 x 24 inches (46.4 x 61 cm)

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60-110, 1960 India ink on paper 18 x 23 3/4 inches (45.7 x 60.3 cm)

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Al Held was born in Brooklyn, NY (1928) and grew up in the Bronx. As a young man, he enlisted in the Navy (1945-47) and after serving, enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City. Under the GI Bill, Held continued his studies at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris (1950-53). When Held returned to the US, he worked in Abstract Expressionism creating "pigment paintings" (1950-1958), later painting the "Taxi Cab" (1959-60) and “Alphabet Painting” (c. 1961-67) series. During this time, he constantly made gestural India ink drawings on paper. In 1962, he became a professor at the Yale University School of Art, a position he would hold until 1980. In the late 1960’s, Held moved away from flatness and frontality. Working primarily in black and white, he began to include shifting perspectives and odd spatial conundrums, going against Greenbergian flatness. In addition to painting he made drawings with marker, ink and graphite. In 1978, he returned to using color. He thought of color as “just another plastic element, a tool to create space.” In 1981, Held was a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, a residency that would greatly impact his future work. He was taken with Baroque architecture and Renaissance frescos and as a result began working in watercolor, a medium he liked because of its immediacy, fluidity and the directness it gave him. Held’s first New York solo exhibition was at the Poindexter Gallery in 1959. André Emmerich Gallery began representing him in 1964 and continued to show him until 1997. Over the years Held’s work has been shown internationally and in major exhibitions. Held completed many public commissions during his lifetime including: “Order/Disorder/Ascension/Descension” at the Social Security Mid-Atlantic Program center in Philadelphia, PA (1976), “Gravity’s Rainbow” at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. (1996), “Passing Through” at the 53rd Street subway station in New York City (2003) among others. Held’s work is represented in many major museum collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Tate Gallery in London, Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, and Kunsthaus in Zurich. Held died in 2005 in Camerata, Italy.

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Published on the occasion of the exhibition Al Held Brushstrokes India Ink Drawings from 1960 May 12-July 8, 2016 Edited by Dorsey Waxter, Elizabeth Sadeghi, Sophia Jackson Designed by Nick Naber Artwork Photography by Charles Benton, Kevin Kundstadt ©2016 Al Held Foundation, Inc./Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Additional photography ©2016 Estate of Rudy Burckhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, (p3); ©Gretchen Lambert, 1964 Al on fire escape 182 5th Ave studio (p62) Cover Image: Al Held, 60-137, 1960, India ink on paper, 18 1/4 x 24 inches (46.4 x 61 cm) [Detail] We would like to thank Mara Held, Gene Benson, Chad Ferber and Maria Bedo of the Al Held Foundation for their unwavering support in the production of this exhibition. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this catalogue may be reproduced without permission of the publisher.

23 East 73rd Street New York, NY 10021 Phone: 212 445 0444 Fax: 212 445 0442 info@vandorenwaxter.com www.vandorenwaxter.com Gallery Hours Through May 27: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm After May 30: Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm


Van Doren Waxter 23 East 73rd Street New York, NY 10021 212 445 0444 | vandorenwaxter.com | info@vandorenwaxter.com

Al Held Brushstrokes India Ink Drawings from 1960  

Published on the occasion of the exhibition: Al Held Brushstrokes India Ink Drawings from 1960 | May 12-July 8, 2016

Al Held Brushstrokes India Ink Drawings from 1960  

Published on the occasion of the exhibition: Al Held Brushstrokes India Ink Drawings from 1960 | May 12-July 8, 2016

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