Saturday 23 July 2011

Kenneth Noland

Kenneth Noland (1924 –2010) was an important exponent of colour field painting. He was born in Asheville, North Carolina. A veteran of World War II Noland took advantage of the G.I. Bill to study art at Black Mountain College in his home state of North Carolina where he studied under Ilya Bolotowsky, a professor who introduced him to Neo-plasticism and the work of Piet Mondrian.
Noland also studied Bauhaus theory and colour under Josef Albers, and he became interested in Paul Klee.

In 1948 – 1949 Noland worked with Ossip Zadkine in Paris, and had his first exhibition of paintings there. In the early 1950s he met Morris Louis in Washington DC. He became friends with Louis, and after being introduced by Clement Greenberg to Helen Frankenthaler and seeing her new paintings at her studio in New York in 1953 he and Louis adopted her “soak-stain” technique of allowing thinned paint to soak into unprimed canvases.

In 1949 he had his first solo exhibition: Kenneth Noland, at the Galerie Creuze, in Paris. In 1957 he had the first solo exhibition of his paintings in New York at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery.
Most of Noland's paintings fall into one of four groups: circles or targets, chevrons, stripes, and shaped canvases. His preoccupation with the relationship of the image to the containing edge of the picture led him to a series of studies of concentric rings like the one reproduced here called Beginning from 1958 using unlikely colour combinations.

1958 Beginning

In 1964 he was included in the exhibition Post-Painterly Abstraction which travelled the country and helped to firmly establish Colour Field painting as an important new movement in the contemporary art of the 1960s.

Noland pioneered the shaped canvas, initially with a series of symmetrical and asymmetrical diamonds or chevrons. In these paintings, the edges of the canvas become as structurally important as the center. During the 1970s and 1980s his shaped canvases were highly irregular and asymmetrical.

1975 Burnt Beige

In 1964 Noland occupied half the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 1965 his work was exhibited at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art and the Jewish Museum in New York. He had the final solo exhibition of his lifetime Kenneth Noland Shaped Paintings 1981-82 in 2009 at the Leslie Feely Fine Art Gallery in New York. Noland died in 2010.

1958 Askew

1958 Ex-Nihilio

1958 Heat

1959 Split

1960 Back to Front

1960 Play

1961 Highlights

1963 Cadmium Radiance

1963 East-West

1967 Stria

1969 Pan

1970 Royal Draw

1973 Interlock Colour

1973 Under Colour

1984 Songs: Remembering

1985 Snow and Ice

1989 Doors: Time Ahead

1999 Refresh

2000 Mysteries: Afloat

2000 Untitled (Target) oil on off-set lithograph on paper

Tuesday 19 July 2011


Roberto Matta (1911 – 2002) known as Matta, was one of Chile’s best-known painters and a seminal figure in 20th century abstract expressionist and surrealist art.

Born in Santiago he initially studied architecture at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, but became disillusioned with this occupation and left for Paris in 1933. His travels in Europe and the USA led him to meet artists such as Arshile Gorky, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, André Breton, and Le Corbusier.

It was Breton who provided the major spur to Matta’s direction in art, encouraging his work and introducing him to the leading members of the Paris Surrealist movement. Matta produced illustrations and articles for Surrealist journals such as Minotaure. During this period he was introduced to the work of many prominent contemporary European artists, such as Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp.

The first true flowering of Matta's own art came in 1938, when he moved from drawing to the oil painting for which he is best known. This period coincided with his emigration to the United States, where he lived until 1948. His early paintings, such as Invasion of the Night, give an indication of the work he would continue, with diffuse light patterns and bold lines on a featureless background.

1940 Invasion of the Night
During the 1940s and 1950s, the disturbing state of world politics found reflection in Matta's work, with the canvases becoming busy with images of electrical machinery and distressed figures. The addition of clay to Matta's paintings in the early 1960s lent an added dimension to the distortions.
Matta's connections with Breton's surrealist movement were severed when a private disagreement concerning Arshile Gorky and his family (when Matta was accused of indirectly causing the suicide of Gorky because of Matta's relationship with the wife of the Armenian-American painter), and led to his expulsion from the group, but by this time his own name was becoming widely known.

He divided his life between Europe and South America during the 1950s and 1960s, successfully combining the political and the semi-abstract in epic surreal canvases. Matta believed that art and poetry can change the lives of people, and was very involved in the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. He was a strong supporter of the socialist government of president Salvador Allende in Chile. A 4 x 24 metre mural of his entitled The First Goal of the Chilean People was painted over with 16 coats of paint by the military regime of Augusto Pinochet following their violent overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973. In 2005 the mural was discovered by local officials. In 2008 the mural was completely restored at a cost of $43,000, and is displayed today in Santiago at the La Granja city hall. (I haven’t shown it here because frankly I think it has more political than artistic merit).
Matta died in Italy in 2002. Matta is the father of the artists Gordon Matta-Clark and his twin brother Sebastian, and Ramuntcho Matta. See Gordon Matta-Clark in my index.

1937 Untitled

1937 Untitled

1938 Morphologie psychologique de l'attente

1938 Morphologie psychologique de l'espour

1940 Light-forms

1941 L'èternite du fini

1942 The Disasters of Mysticism

1943 Eronisme

1945 X-Space and the Ego

1949 Untitled

1952 Let any Flowers Bloom

1954 Untitled

1958 L'Etang de No

1961 Instinct Caliban

1965 Untitled

1967 Semeur d'incendies

1974-76 Wake

1982 Le je et moi

1983 Fiat Lux

1990 El cosmos de la hierba

1997 Ecce Homo

Sunday 17 July 2011

Ad Reinhardt

Ad Reinhardt (1913 – 1967) was born Adolph Dietrich Friedrich Reinhardt in 1913 in Buffalo, New York. He studied Art History under Meyer Schapiro at Columbia University, New York from 1931 to 1935 and studied painting with Carl Holty and Francis Criss at the American Artists School from 1936 to 1937. He also studied at the National Academy of Design with Karl Anderson in 1936. Between 1936 and 1939, Reinhardt worked for the WPA Federal Art Project.

From 1937 to 1947, he was a member of the American Abstract Artists group. Reinhardt continued his studies from 1946 to 1951 at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts.

Reinhardt’s influence as a teacher and writer was as significant as his art. He taught at Brooklyn College from 1947 to 1967. He also lectured at the California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, in 1950; the University of Wyoming, Laramie, in 1951; Yale University, New Haven, from 1952 to 1953; and at Hunter College, New York, from 1959 to 1967.

Reinhardt was given his first solo exhibition at Columbia Teachers College in 1943, and by 1946 was showing regularly with the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York. Reinhardt was a pioneer of Hard-edge painting at this time. In the 1950s, he began to limit his palette to a single colour, moving from red to blue and then to his final stage of black paintings.

In 1966, the Jewish Museum, New York, organised an exhibition of Reinhardt’s paintings, which was accompanied by a catalogue with texts by Lucy Lippard and the artist – Reinhardt died the following year. In 1970, the Marlborough Gallery in New York exhibited the Black Paintings executed between 1951 and 1967. In 1972, the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf organized an exhibition of Reinhardt’s work, which traveled to the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Kunsthaus Zürich; Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Paris; and Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Vienna. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, mounted an exhibition entitled Reinhardt and Color in 1980. Reinhardt’s essays continued to influence many Conceptual artists in the 1970s. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, organized a major exhibition of Reinhardt’s work in 1991. He died in 1967 in New York.

Ad Reinhardt 1937 Untitled 
oil on wood

Ad Reinhardt 1938 Study for a Painting 

Ad Reinhardt 1939 Paper Collage

Ad Reinhardt 1940 Untitled

Ad Reinhardt 1941 Red and Blue Composition 
oil on fibreboard

Ad Reinhardt 1941 Untitled 
paper collage

Ad Reinhardt 1944 Abstraction

Ad Reinhardt 1946 Yellow Painting (Abstraction) 
oil on canvas 

Ad Reinhardt 1950 Untitled (Red and Grey)

Ad Reinhardt 1950 Untitled (Yellow and White)

Ad Reinhardt 1951-52 Abstract Painting

Ad Reinhardt 1952 Abstract Painting, Blue

Ad Reinhardt 1952 Abstract Painting, Blue

Ad Reinhardt 1952 Abstract Painting, Red

Ad Reinhardt 1954-58 Painting 
oil on canvas

Ad Reinhardt 1955 Free and Fluid / Matisse Reclining Figure 
india ink on postcard

Ad Reinhardt 1955 Front of Free and Fluid

Ad Reinhardt 1957 Abstract Painting

Ad Reinhardt 1958 Places He Travelled 
india ink on coloured pencil on postcard

Ad Reinhardt 1961 Abstract Painting No. 4

Ad Reinhardt 1962 Abstract Painting No. 5

Ad Reinhardt 1963 Abstract Painting