Monday, 30 May 2011

Philip Guston - part 1

This is the first of a two-part post on the works of Philip Guston. This first post deals with his earlier, more ‘conventional’ abstract expressionist style if you will. The second post focuses on the radical change of style his work underwent in the late 1960s, and for which he is arguably better known.

Philip Guston (1913 – 1980) was a notable painter and printmaker in the New York School, which included many of the Abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning. In the late 1960s Guston helped to lead a transition from Abstract expressionism to Neo-expressionism in painting, abandoning the so-called "pure abstraction" of abstract expressionism in favour of more cartoonish renderings of various personal symbols and objects.

Guston, was born in 1913 in Montreal. In 1919 his family moved to Los Angeles, and with an interest in art, he was encouraged by his mother to take a correspondence course in cartooning. He attended the Manual Arts High School, where he became a friend of Jackson Pollock, a fellow student. After being expelled from that school, Guston independently pursued his interest in art, including comics, as well as delving into various philosophical theories. In 1930 he received a scholarship to the Otis Art Institute. He left after three months.

In 1935–1936 he moved to New York, where he worked on murals for the Works Progress Administration on their Federal Art Project. His works from this period tend toward realist social commentary but also suggest his exploration of more abstract approaches. From 1941 to 1945, he taught at the State University of Iowa in Iowa City.

1945 marked Guston’s first solo exhibition at The Midtown Galleries and a first prize award at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh. In 1947, when he had a summer home in Woodstock, New York, Guston came to know abstract painter Bradley Walker Tomlin and became more attentive to the abstract art that was a hallmark of New York’s art scene.

Bradley Walker Tomlin No.13 1952
In 1948-1949, the Prix de Rome took him to Europe, after which he moved to New York, becoming part of a circle of artists, composers, and writers including Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, and John Cage.

During the 1950s Guston entered a new phase of abstract expression. Thick strokes in lush hues are woven into complex surfaces, with the brighter colours massed at the centre of the canvas; these works became hallmarks of the artist’s style. They were well received, with The Museum of Modern Art purchasing of one of his paintings in 1956. After traveling to Europe in 1960, Guston had a major retrospective at the Guggenheim in 1962.

In 1967, he moved to Woodstock permanently, and began painting in a symbolic style that revived the cartoon like forms and figures that he drew as a young man. In this body of work he created a lexicon of images such as Klansmen, lightbulbs, shoes, cigarettes, and clocks. In late 2009, the McKee gallery in NYC, Guston's historic dealer, mounted a show revealing that lexicon in 49 small oils on panel painted between 1969 and 1972 that had never been publicly displayed as a whole. Guston is best known for these late existential and lugubrious paintings, which at the time of his death had reached a wide audience, and found great popular acceptance. Guston died in 1980 at his home in Woodstock.

1947-48 The Tormentors 
oil on canvas

1950 Leaving 
quill and ink on paper

1951 White Painting II 
oil on canvas

1952 Painting No. 9 
oil on canvas

1952 To B.T.W. 
oil on canvas

1952 Untitled 
oil on canvas

1953-54 Zone 
oil on canvas

1954 Untitled

1954-55 Beggar's Joy 
oil on canvas

1955 For M 
oil on canvas

1956/57 The Clock 
oil on canvas

1957 Abstraction 
oil on paper

1957 Native's Return 
oil on canvas

1957 Oasis 
oil on canvas

1957 The Mirror 
oil on canvas

1958 Spring II 
oil on canvas

1960 Painter III 
oil on canvas

1963 Untitled 
synthetic polymer on paper

1966 Untitled ( #11 ) 

1969 Edge of Town 
oil on canvas

1969 Edge of Town ( detail )

* See part 2 on Philip Guston for later works.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Eduardo Paolozzi

One of my early heroes today – Eduardo Paolozzi (1924 – 2005). Paolozzi, the son of Italian parents, was born in Edinburgh in 1924. In 1943 he studied at the College of Art in Edinburgh in 1944 at the St Martin's School of Art and finally at the Slade School of Art in Oxford from 1945 to 1947, after which he worked in Paris. While in Paris from 1947–1949, Paolozzi became acquainted with Alberto Giacometti, Jean Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger. This period became an important influence for his later work.

After Paris, he moved back to London eventually establishing his studio in Chelsea. The studio was a workshop filled with hundreds of found objects, models, sculptures, materials, tools, toys and stacks of books. Paolozzi was interested in everything and would use a variety of objects and materials in his work, particularly his collages. Largely a surrealist, Paolozzi came to public attention in the 1950s by producing a range of striking screenprints and ‘Art Brut’ sculpture.

Paolozzi was co-founder of the Independent Group in London in 1952/53, which discussed thoughts of including trivial culture and that way gave decisive impulses for the development of English Pop-Art.

Paolozzi's I was a Rich Man's Plaything (1947) is considered the first standard bearer of Pop Art and first to display the word ‘pop’. Paolozzi showed the collage in 1952 as part of his groundbreaking Bunk! series presentation at the initial Independent Group meeting in London.

1947 I was a Rich Man's Plaything

He taught sculpture and ceramics at a number of institutions, including University of California, Berkeley in 1968, and at the Royal College of Art. Paolozzi has a long association with Germany, having worked in Berlin from 1974 as part of the Artists Exchange Scheme. He was a professor at the Fachhochschule in Cologne from 1977 to 1981, and later taught sculpture at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich. Paolozzi was fond of Munich and many of his works and concept plans were developed in a studio he kept there, including the mosaics of the Tottenham Court Road Station in London.

He took a stab at industrial design in the 1970s with a 500-piece run of the upscale Suomi tableware by Timo Sarpaneva that Paolozzi decorated for the German Rosenthal porcelain maker's Studio Linie.

 Paolozzi’s graphic work of the Sixties was highly innovative. In a series of works he explored and extended the possibilities and limits of the silkscreen medium. The resulting prints, characterised by Pop culture references and technological imagery, look fresh and relevant in the 21st Century. In 1994 Paolozzi gave the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art a large body of his works, and much of the content of his artist's studio. In 1999 the National Galleries of Scotland opened the Dean Gallery to display this collection, and the gallery displays a recreation of Paolozzi's studio, with its contents evoking the original London and Munich locations.

In 2001 Paolozzi suffered a near-fatal stroke. The illness confined him to a wheelchair, and he died in a hospital in London in April 2005.

1947 Lessons of Last Time

1948 Dr Pepper

1948 Sack-o-sauce

1949 Real Gold

1950 [Bunk] Real Gold

1952 Was this Metal Monster Master - or Slave?

1953 Collage

1960-62 A Folio of 9 Designs

1963-4 Conjectures to Identity

1965 Wittgenstein in New York

1969-70 Multi Chanel Prototype

1970 Mr Peanut

1971 B.A.S.H. pink


1971 Bunk 2

1971 Philadelphia Print

1975 Perpetum Mobile

1975-6 Calcium Light Night, Four German Songs

2000 Turing 4 (Turing Suite)

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Franz Kline

I’m still working my through the Abstract Expressionists, and today I’m looking at the work of Franz Kline (1910 – 1962). Kline was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. While enrolled at Boston University, he took art classes at the Boston Art Students League from 1931 to 1935. In 1935, Kline went to London and attended Heatherley’s Art School from 1936 to 1938. He settled permanently in New York in 1939. During the late 1930s and 1940s, Kline painted cityscapes and landscapes of the coal-mining district where he was brought up, as well as commissioned murals and portraits. Kline was fortunate to have the financial support and friendship of two patrons, Dr. Theodore J. Edlich, Jr., and I. David Orr, who commissioned numerous portraits and bought many other works from him. In this period, he received awards in several National Academy of Design Annuals.

In 1943, Kline met Willem de Kooning at Conrad Marca-Relli’s studio and within the next few years also met Jackson Pollock. Kline’s interest in Japanese art began at this time. His mature abstract style, developed in the late 1940s, is characterized by bold gestural strokes of fast-drying black and white enamel. His first solo exhibition was held at the Egan Gallery, New York, in 1950. Soon after, he was recognized as a major figure in the emerging Abstract Expressionist movement. Although Kline was best known for his black-and-white paintings, he also worked extensively in color, from the mid-1950s to the end of his life.

Kline spent a month in Europe in 1960, travelling mostly in Italy. In the decade before his death, he was included in major international exhibitions, including the 1956 and 1960 Venice Biennales and the 1957 São Paulo Biennale, and he won a number of important prizes. Kline died in 1962 in New York. The Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, D.C., organized a memorial exhibition of his work that same year.

1950 Cardinal

1950 Chief

1952 Painting Number 7

1952 Untitled

1953 New York, N.Y.

1953 Suspended

1954 Painting Number Two

1955 Orange Outline

1955 White Forms

1957 Untitled

1958 C and O

1958 Heaume

1959 Black Reflections

1959 Untitled

1959-60 Blueberry Eyes

1960 Harleman

1961 Le Gros

1961 Scudera

1961 Untitled