Tuesday, 9 December 2014

New American Painting catalogue 1959

I recently went to supper with friends who were clearing out a number of items. After the meal they asked me to take a look and among the variety of prints, paintings and books was this catalogue produced by the Arts Council in 1959 for the exhibition at The Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in association with MOMA New York. I knew of the exhibition but I had never seen the catalogue before. The artists in the exhibition include Baziotes, Brooks, Francis, Gorky,Gottlieb, Guston, Hartigan, Kline, de Kooning, Motherwell, Newman, Pollock, Rothko, Stamos, Still, Tomlin and Tworkov. 

I have scanned it an uploaded it asa PDF here for you to read New American Painting Catalogue 1959

Friday, 5 December 2014

Earliest evidence of abstract thought?

Photo credit Josephine Joordens

Nature magazine has published these images of this engraved shell which is from a freshwater mussel species and was collected in the 1890s by the Dutch palaeontologist Eugène Dubois, at a site in eastern Java called Trinil. There, Dubois discovered the first Homo erectus fossil — a skullcap — and other ancient human bones. He also brought home dozens of shells excavated from the site. They were examined in the 1930s and then packed away into a box in a museum in Leiden, the Netherlands.
The engraving might have stayed undiscovered, were it not for Josephine Joordens, a biologist at Leiden University. 
By 40,000 years ago, and probably much earlier, anatomically modern humans — Homo sapiens — were painting on cave walls in places as far apart as Europe2 and Indonesia3. Simpler ochre engravings found in South Africa date to 100,000 years ago4. Earlier this year, researchers reported a 'hashtag' engraving in a Gibraltar cave once inhabited by Neanderthals5. That was the first evidence for drawing in any extinct species.
But until the discovery of the shell engraving, nothing approximating art has been ascribed to Homo erectus. The species emerged in Africa about 2 million years ago and trekked as far as the Indonesian island of Java, before going extinct around 140,000 years ago. Most palaeoanthropologists consider the species to be the direct ancestor of both humans and Neanderthals.

Henk Caspers/Naturalis
The shell, from a freshwater mussel, shows a hole made by a member of Homo erectus.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Annabel Emson at Marian Cramer

Annabel Emson at Marian Cramer, Amsterdam
29th November - 31 January
"This selection of paintings is inspired by the idea of light in history. Some of the works are tonal renditions of old master paintings selected for their specific qualities of light. They include works by Turner, Rubens and Constable. Other paintings were taken from memories of different types of light, for example Daylight or Orange Night in the Reeds. In this series of works Emson found that removing colour from paintings and limiting the palette to black and white helped emphasize the tonal qualities of light in her work."

Visiting the Spirit of Barnaby Jones

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Review of artists from Turps Banana correspondance course exhibition earlier this year in a-n magazine..

5-11 September 2014: An exhibition of works by 19 painters enrolled on the 2014 Turps Correspondence Course by Charley Peters in a-n magazine.

This is a review of Correspond, a group show by students on the Turps Correspondence Course. Due to the shifting environment of higher education it feels relevant to also consider the positioning of the exhibition as an alternative to university based arts education. In recent years the landscape of undergraduate and postgraduate experience has been vastly remodelled; studio space and individual contact time with academic staff in many institutions has depleted as tuition fees and cohort sizes have been dramatically raised. New models of education and professional development for artists are necessarily but too slowly emerging outside of the university model to provide a non-institutional space for creativity. The Turps Correspondence Course, and its studio-based equivalent, the Turps Art School, was founded in response to the growing concern for the future of painting tuition in the shifting climate of Higher Education. Conceived by the Editors of Turps Painting Magazine to be an artist led painting school, the Turps Correspondence Course offers painters the opportunity to develop their practice through a series of quarterly written appraisals from a dedicated mentor in response to work submitted online.
The Correspondence Course still follows, in part, a traditional art school model: a dedicated director of studies, support from practising artists, and critical feedback on presented work, albeit in a virtual capacity. It lacks the benefit of a physically defined peer network, but adds focus instead to in-depth individual development exclusive of the rest of the course cohort. One of the most significant way in which the Turps Correspondence Course challenges conventional art education is its lack of reliance on group teaching methods such as the ‘crit’, a type of formative assessment where student-artists physically present their work to gain critical responses from peers and tutors. The crit’s perceived strengths lie in the development of reflective practices, in offering students the experience of presenting to an audience, and contributing to peer learning.But there are also problems with such institutional practices, in which students are expected to ‘perform’, present work using an exclusive, learned academic language, and locate themselves unquestioningly at the bottom of a hierarchy of knowledge led by teaching staff. In his refreshingly honest ‘survival guide’ for students and tutors, Why Art Cannot be Taught (2001), James Elkins describes crits as, ‘like seductions, full of emotional outbursts’. He analyses confrontational critique dialogue and proposes that there can be a problem in the translation of the spoken language between a tutor and student, stating that ‘critiques are perilously close to total nonsense’. Considering the significance placed on physical exchanges such as the crit in art education there has been comparatively little research into developing alternative strategies. It is timely that The Turps Correspondence Course appears to be taking important steps towards establishing a progressive learning environment outside of some of the more problematic institutional conventions.
Correspond took place in the Turps Art School studio building in South East London, showing the work of 19 painters at the end of a year of their engagement with Turps Correspondence Course. The exhibition hang felt very conventional – but this was ultimately one of its strengths; presenting itself as a show purely about the paintings themselves, and not of their curation or the words of contextual theory surrounding them. The artists were each represented by a modest number of selected works that illustrated both the breadth of practice on the programme and the general level of competence, which on the whole provided strong competition for many other postgraduate painting shows.
Among the highlights for me were the works that appeared to articulate what painting, as an active, interrogatory discipline, offers to the process of a work’s development. Miranda Boulton uses graphite lines and washes of oil paint to navigate the space of the painting support. The resultant works express the tension between an image permanently in flux and one in a state of final resolution, with the decision making processes equally exposed and hidden in layers of suspended marks. The delicate formalism of Susan Preston’s work is generated through the subtle erasing and scraping of layers of paint, bringing separate elements of the composition into balance. Whereas Boulton’s work expresses openly the dynamism of its own making, Preston’s paintings have a much more static, poetic outcome. Negotiating the matter of balance in a more investigative way to Preston, Roisin Fogarty incorporates both rational and intuitive methods of working. She creates strict compositional structures on which to explore colour, tone, line and edge, all as seemingly flexible considerations despite the initial systems in place. Resolved well as individual pieces, Fogarty’s work nevertheless suggests a larger interrogation of the formal qualities of painting.
Painting more figuratively but still with a consideration of its material properties, Jules Clarke uses the fluidity of paint to describe the movement of one frame in a film to another, creating dreamlike images that appear to be played out in slow motion. Possessing an otherworldly quality, the image surface – showing the recreation of scenes taken from film or television – is gently disturbed by light daubs of paint. The world Clark portrays feels nostalgic, not just for the subject matter of home movies, Hollywood films and music videos, but because her disrupted images recall a time recently passed of pre-pixel analogue television snow. These are sombre images suggesting the fragility of memory and the ability of paint to render an ambiguous state of being, also present in Paula MacArthur’s large scale images of gem stones built up through layers of lightly tinted turps and intense colour. Made from a succession of wet, energetic glazes her paintings hold together as impressive compositions in their entirety, with areas of internal fragmentation suggestive of pure abstraction. The runs of colour, bleeding edges and vigorous drops of paint in MacArthur’s paintings are left on show, alluding to her working methods and succeeding in establishing a dynamic interplay between the organic and the man made, the instinctive and the premeditated.
Much of the work shown in Correspond focused on the pictorial; the sculptural, painted books of Natasha Morland and Katie Shipton’s physical manipulation of paint providing the only expanded negotiations of the discipline. In the context of other graduate art shows this was an initially surprising, but also largely pleasing focus on making, rather than redefining, painting.  If the works shown in Correspond are representative of what the Turps Correspondence Course can produce then it appears to be a serious alternative to an institutional experience at a time where, to quote its founders, “there is growing disquiet about the quality of painting tuition”. Rather than proposing a radical rethink of what painting could be, Correspond offered a serious contemplation of its merits and is a testament to why the tuition of painting – stripped back to its most rudimentary components of constructive feedback, time to reflect and the opportunity to disseminate the work made – should be back on the agenda of all our art schools.


Sunday, 16 November 2014

'Art Experiment:32 questions from John Cage.' The Garage, Moscow, Russia..

At The Garage they have a show exploring 'Art Experiment: 32 questions from John Cage.' 
'Garage's annual Аrt Experiment is an interactive project that puts the viewer at the forefront of the creative process. Designed for visitors of all ages, the unique and action-packed laboratory will expand your understanding of contemporary art as you create your own works and share the joys of creativity with friends, family, and complete strangers. The project is in a constant state of development, covering ever-new ground and incorporating a variety of new media. Since the program’s launch in 2010, over 25,000 children, young people, and adults have participated in this legendary annual event.'
'In 2015, Garage invites you to spend the two-week Christmas Holidays immersed in a world of unbounded music and sound, featuring light and sound-based installations and artworks by prominent artists from both Russia and abroad. 32 simple but provocative questions from John Cage, one of the most famous and influential composers of the 20th century, will guide you through this world of musical sensations.'

Featuring: John Cage, The Institution of Unstable Thoughts, Alexander Hnilitsky, Playtronica, SlackLabs studio, ::vtol::, Dmitry Vlasik, interaction design studio Hello Computer, Baschet Soundsculpture Workshop from the University of Barcelona coordinated by Marti Ruids, The Moscow Chamber Orchestra MUSICA VIVA directed by Alexander Rudin, as well as children's orchestras and music schools under the Moscow Department of Culture's Office of Educational Programs..

'Zero Group, Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950's and 1960's' at Guggenheim, New York..

Turn the sound up, and click on this Zero Group website for the retrospective of the 'Zero Group, Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950's and 1960's' at Guggenheim, New York..

"In 1957 Otto Piene and Heinz Mack founded an artists’ group in Düsseldorf, West Germany, that they called Zero. They chose the name, as Piene explained in 1964, to indicate “a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning as at the countdown when rockets take off."


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Robert Motherwell at Paul Kasmin

I recently explained to a friend how I caught myself taking a sharp, involuntary intake of breath when seeing work by Robert Motherwell that I hadn't seen before. The simple elegant gestures combined with a poetry and an attitude that still strikes me as more epic and in your face than any cartoon graffiti. The exhibition of his work is at Paul Kasmin from 30th October - 3rd January. ( BTW Christmas is coming but birthday would be fine!) The Paul Kasmin dedicated site also has the collection of Robert Motherwell's interviews.

Open Study no 5
 Automatic Image No1
 Mediterranean Figuration 2
 Black Asterix
Untitled from Joyce Sketchbook
Untitled from Joyce Sketchbook

"The series that shivers me most with shared inspiration is Open."
"And there, Motherwell opens a window."
From the text

I agree.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Chance and Order at Eagle Gallery

Kenneth Martin, Mary Martin, Jeffrey Steele

20 November - 19 December 2014
"The show takes its title from a small Kenneth Martin drawing from 1983: Chance, Order, Change, Time Sequence – a work that illustrates how an adherence to a pre-conceived system can give rise to a free-flowing image of great visual beauty.
As a younger generation currently re-discovers the languages of Concrete and Systems art from across the globe, the exhibition draws together British artists of different generations, to reveal a less prominent, but equally eloquent vein in constructivist philosophies and practice.

The exhibition spans over 50 years, from 1960s' monochrome studies on paper by Jeffrey Steele (b. 1931) and drawings by Kenneth Martin (1905–1984) and Mary Martin (1907–1969). Natalie Dower (b. 1931) – a friend and associate of many of the British Systems artists - continues to base her work on the mathematical precepts that underpinned the approach of Systems painters in the 1950s and ‘60s. Her work is distinguished by an exuberant use of colour, texture and materials, and we are delighted to be showing two very recent paintings: Root Two Spirals and II 2014."

Andrew Bick OGVDS (straightened) V5, 2014

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Polly Apfelbaum at Frith St

Polly Apfelbaum Colour Sessions 7th November - 20th December at Frith St Gallery
b. 1955, Abington, Pennsylvania
"Colour is the key element in Polly Apfelbaum’s work, both visually and structurally. Her floorbound installations – which incorporate hundreds of pieces of velvet, hand-dyed in bold hues and often arranged in sprawling configurations that appear to be organically inspired – defy categories of art-making. Like abstract paintings that melted off the wall and formed vibrant puddles, her arrangements of irregularly shaped rounds, diamonds and ovals coalesce with the physical presence of sculpture, while maintaining painting’s sense of vibrancy."
Polly Apfelbaum
 Ombre Black Red Black, Brown Pink Brown and Ombre Purple Mauve Purple, Brown Pink Brown, 2013
Compulsory Figures 1996
Las Vegas, 2009
The Artist's Life: Polly Apfelbaum from NYFA on Vimeo.

Ed Moses at UC Irvine University Art Gallery

Ed Moses 'Cross Section' at UC Irvine University Art Gallery until December 13th

The exhibition at the Claire Trevor School UCI shows a snap shot of the paintings Ed Moses has undertaken from the 1970's. Ed Moses (born 1926 in Long Beach) has been a prominent figure in the Los Angeles art scene for almost 60 years. He first exhibited in 1949, and was part of the original group of artists from the Ferus Gallery in 1957.
These paintings show an accomplished explorer striving to find new, meaningful form. I think the paintings below illustrate a journey that many painters will identify with but being a 'fiddling rustic' I am a sucker for the the 90's paintings because I tend to prefer the touch of the artist to be more evident than process.

NY Trac IV 1975

Ed Moses Courtesy Frank Lloyd gallery
Dushay 1990

Edge #8 1994
Marklet #2 2012

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Canan Tolon at Von Lintel

'Like' at Von Lintel gallery until January 10 2015. One of the preoccupations of American abstract expressionism was its desire to escape the organisation of space that emerged from Europe and particularly the dominant influence of cubism. Now it would appear that the figurative dimension, the architecture of the world is re-asserting itself and this trend is evident in Canan Tolon's work. As understood by Picasso "To talk about painting is like trying to taste music" so I recognise its hard to write about painting but sadly the text that accompanies these delightful paintings does them no favours. Apparently she has invented a visual narrative! ( Please read the comments below to see the corrections from the Von Lintel Gallery. )A style maybe but a new visual narrative, in painting, please do tell.
"Canan Tolon's paintings at first appear as purely abstract, but with time, the eye discovers familiar urban landscapes in the rhythmic painted streaks. She explores the visualization of space by creating an illusion of depth and engages the view in the game of seeking recognizable imagery and inventing a visual narrative.Tolon was born in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1955 and was educated in Germany, England, and at the University of California at Berkeley where she trained in architecture and design." No surprise there.

Canan Tolon untitled 2014

Canan Tolon untitled 2014

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Allan McCollum’s Perfect Couples

 Allan McCollum's latest exhibition, The Shapes Project: Perfect Couples, opened last week at Petzel Gallery in New York.  McCollum has combined his interest in population growth and art,and in 2005 devised The Shapes Project, which is a system for producing unique shapes. Utilizing this plan, the artist is able to create a two-dimensional representation for each person on the planet, without ever repeating the same shape twice. 

The Shapes Project is an exploration of art, identity, mathematics and actual population data, devised in a system that has been organized to produce over 31,000,000,000 different shapes. The shapes represent not only individuals in the current population, but also the projected population. It is designed to keep track of every individual iteration, ensuring that no two are alike.  Each shape exists as an Adobe Illustrator vector graphic, enabling it to exist two-dimensionally, three-dimensionally, or simply digitally. They can be made in any medium, size, color or texture, by hand with pencil and paper and other art materials or handcraft tools , or using outputting devices like desktop printers, CNC machines, water jet cutters, or 3D printers, but each remains uniquely itself in form, regardless of material or size. Yet, despite the fact that the system for each shape has been completed and designed, the task of producing each piece would take longer than McCollum’s lifetime. Instead, the project, if it is to be completed, must be passed on as a legacy with McCollum enlisting the help of others.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Abstract programming on the BBC

The BBC 4 goes abstract. BBC 4 Abstract programmes My apologies to you if you are unable to view this series of programmes here on the BBC because you are outside of the UK. They are only available for a few days.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Red, Yellow and Blue at Galleri Anderssons Sandstrom

Cris Gianakos, Peter Hahne, Sean Scully
September 11 – October 17 
I have added nearly the complete text from the gallery minus the hyperbolic introduction and the emphatic conclusion:
Peter Hahne from Malmö is, and always has been, true to his expression, where the half monochrome encounters elements from calligraphy, and rhythmic movement sets against a meditative calm. Even when the surface is perceived as controlled, it holds an inherent freedom.
"I have often been asked about how a painting becomes. As I understand it, it’s not that the question is about the actual craft, but rather on the content, the idea behind it. Thus, "what does it represent?" It’s a question that I in a sense can understand, but I also know that sometimes it is difficult to give a good and clear answer. Most often it is a long chain of thoughts and ideas. A kind of tentative work leading up to a the final paintingt."

Hahne abstracts images out of memories and experiences. In his recent paintings, he has assumed photo memories from container handling in a port and from life at sea. The rows and columns of different colored steel boxes, which work like minimalist sculptures, functions as the inspiration for the paintings, with tight but vibrant color fields. Hahne describes his encounters with his motifs as spontaneous and emotionally driven reactions, not unlike the human experience of something sacred and holy.
Greek-American Cris Gianakos' focuses on geometric shapes related to the urban landscape and the architecture around us, something that is easily detected in the peice "Signal I - V". Trained at the School of Visual Arts, Gianakos claims that he is primarily self-taught. As early as in the 1960s he began to experiment with what still permeates his work today: simple geometric shapes applied to, but also abstracted from, the landscape and scenery he moves through. One of his most acclaimed installations was carried out in 1969, when Gianakos by using flour created a large cross on the asphalt in an intersection in Central Park. By letting cyclists and pedestrians who passed move the flour around, a shape appeared and made visible the every day randomness that is really nothing out of the ordinary.

In the late 1960s, during his college days, Irish Sean Scully abandoned figurative painting to devote himself to his great love, abstraction. Since then he has been exclusively exploring the art form and is today one of the world's most influential abstract painters. Since 1975 he lives and works in New York. His imagery has elements of monumental expressions, yet the softness in his color bars makes the paintings inviting and somewhat romantic. In Red, Yellow and Blue, Scully presents the grand aquatints "Dark Fold" and "Vertical Bridge". Rich earth tones contrasts with bright parts in these works, whose compositions are characteristic of Scully.
Red, Yellow and Blue; our three primary colors, which has been so carefully analyzed by both Newton as Goethe, is the base and foundation of painting. They are like the letters in a text, like building blocks, and bring with them the possibility to combine and vary endlessly.

Monday, 25 August 2014

From the Guggenheim Collection to the Cobra Museum Amstelveen, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Last few days...From the Guggenheim Collection to the Cobra Museum, Amstelveen in Amsterdam from 5th April - 31st August. The Solomon R. Guggenheim's International Abstraction: 1949-1960 at the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen. Thirteen of these works were in the Guggenheim's inaugural exhibition in 1959.
This interesting exhibition goes well in parallel with Tate St.Ives 'International Exchanges: Modern Art and St Ives 1915–1965' this Summer.. Both exhibitions exploring the international significance of post war abstraction taking place in Europe as well as USA, which has only been seriously understood in the last decade, re-considering Abstract Expressionism, Art Informal in Paris, Arte Povera and CoBrA.
Jackson Pollock, Ocean Greyness, 1953. Oil on canvas, 57 3/4 x 90 1/8 inches (146.7 x 229 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 54.1408 © 2014 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
'The 1950s ushered in a diversity of fresh, bold artistic styles and avant-garde associations on both sides of the Atlantic. From the Abstract Expressionist and Art Informel movements to the CoBrA and Dau al Set artist groups, the revitalization of experimental art following World War II signified renewed interest in freedom of expression and spontaneity. Artists experimented with unorthodox materials, techniques and subject matter, and reexamined earlier art movements, such as Surrealism. French writer Michel Tapié even declared the existence of 'un art autre' (art of another kind) - a radical break with all traditional notions of order and composition, in a movement toward something wholly “other”.
From the Guggenheim Collection: International Abstraction 1949-1960, as the title suggests, showcases a selection of works from the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. For the very first time, works from the core collection of mid-twentieth century art from this world-renowned institution are on view in the Netherlands.
Asger Jorn, Green Ballet (Il balletto verde), 1960. Oil on canvas, 57 1/8 x 78 7/8 inches (145 x 200 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 62.1608 © 2014 Donation Jorn, Silkeborg / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / COPY-DAN, Copenhagen
The exhibition focuses on the years from 1949 to 1960, a dynamic period in which modern art and post-World War II societies were undergoing radical changes.New York joined Paris as a center of world culture: in both cities, artists were fervently in search of new, expressive and performative painting.
From the Guggenheim Collection also celebrates a vital time in the history of the Guggenheim Museum. In 1952, James Johnson Sweeney was appointed director, and the year 1959 marked the opening of the sensational Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building. The inaugural exhibition in 1959 included over 120 works. They were partly by important modernists from the collection, such as Constantin Brancusi and Vasily Kandinsky, but more than half of the works had been acquired during Sweeney�s tenure. They included 40 contemporary paintings and sculptures by an international array of artists, clearly demonstrating Sweeney's commitment to innovation and the art of his own day.
Alberto Burri, Composition (Composizione), 1953. Oil, gold paint, and glue on burlap and canvas, 33 7/8 x 39 1/2 inches (86 x 100.4 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 53.1364 © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
The collaboration between the Cobra Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum began in 2012, when the Guggenheim's Art of Another Kind, curated by Tracey Bashkoff and Megan Fontanella, was presented in New York. The Cobra artists and their ideas had a prominent role in that exhibition, and it now serves as a model for the presentation in Amstelveen.'

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Tate St.Ives 'International Exchanges: Modern Art and St Ives 1915–1965' this Summer..

Patrick Heron Long Table with Fruit 1949. Oil paint on canvas 45.7 x 91.4cm
© Estate of Patrick Heron. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2014
Tate St.Ives amongst their celebrations of its 25th birthday and the extension work being carried out, are showing an ambitious exhibition this Summer: 'International Exchanges: Modern Art and St.Ives 1915-1965.' The show includes work by Kandinsky, Mondrian, Gris , de Stael and Sam Francis, amongst others.

This is an excellent exhibition on the significance of Cornish modernist artists and their international network of artists that came and went or corresponded with them in the early 20th Century. Artists such William Scott, Patrick Heron as well as the older generation such as Nicholson and Hepworth were part of a generation that had spent time in Paris and Europe making friends and collaborating.

Nicolas de Staël Coin d’Atelier Fond Bleu 1955 Oil on canvas, 1950 x 1140mm
© Estate of Nicolas de Staël, private collection
Sam Francis Painting 1957 Watercolour on paper
support: 629 x 486 mm Purchased 1957© Estate of Sam Francis/ ARS, NY & DACS, London 2002

So take the camper van down to the West coast of Cornwall and check out the show and be inspired this Summer!
International Exchanges: Modern Art and St Ives 1915-65, Tate St Ives, 17 May - 28 September 2014, then touring to mima, Middlesbrough, October - January 2015. The project is led by Chris Stephens, curator of modern British art, Tate Britain, and curated by Sara Matson, curator, Tate St Ives, and Rachel Smith, doctoral student, Tate Research Centre for Creative Communities.

There is also a very interesting article, 'Abstraction sans Frontieres' by Éric de Chassey, who is an art historian, professor of contemporary art history at the École Normale Supérieure in Lyons and director of the French Academy in Rome - Villa Medici on the Tate St.Ives website and in Tate Etc magazine on the artists in the show and their significance at the time..
Artist William Green using his bicycle tyres to spread liquid paraffin and black bitumen into the surface of the canvas, filmed in his London studio for Pathé News 1957

Joan Mitchell, 'Trees' at Cheim & Read Gallery, London

Cheim & Read, in cooperation with the Joan Mitchell Foundation, are exhibiting a series of paintings entitled, 'Trees'. this is a great selection of works from drawings to medium and large sized paintings from her more mature period of work from 1961-1991.

The press release states: 'the paintings in this exhibition are inspired by the form and structure of trees. Known for her expressionistic, visceral explorations of the natural landscape, Mitchell abstracted tree-forms throughout her career, from the richly-hued, interlacing branches of Hemlock, 1956 (Collection Whitney Museum of American Art) to the thick, rectangular-trunked grove in 'Trees', 1990-91. The paintings bristle with energy and emotion; her staccato brushwork, rich color palette and pervading sense of light and composition are at once elegant and rebellious.'

It continues: 'Though rooted in Abstract Expressionism (she was one of the few successful female painters of the New York School), Mitchell’s work redefines the parameters of gestural abstraction. As Yau notes in his catalogue essay, her works are characterized not by a stream-of-conscious, chance assembly of paint-loaded brushstrokes, but by a precise and thoughtful construction which in turn fosters “animated eloquence”:
“For Mitchell…rigor and expressiveness are not mutually exclusive activities.” In many ways, a tree’s inherent structure is analogous to the way in which Mitchell composes her paintings: beginning from an anchored core, her physical gestures create an armature of rhythmic potential, allowing for an expressive lyricism that attempts to, as she says, “define a feeling.” Mitchell succeeds in capturing not only nature’s various visual effects, but also its essence of “being alive.” In 1959, Mitchell moved to France and lived there for the last three decades of her life. The region’s distinctive light, color and atmosphere not only rewarded her sensitivity to the natural world, but also connected her work to a long history of plein air painting. Van Gogh’s charged, vibrating brushstroke and Cezanne’s fusion of mark-making and color greatly informed her practice, as did the structured surfaces and divided forms of Mondrian’s tree paintings.'

These are great visceral works that show a strong body of work developed by an American painter steeped in Abstract Expressionistic energy and yet these works are made and were very much appreciated and exhibited in France, where she spent much of her time from the early sixties onwards, and it is because she lived in France that they suggest a more subtle and sensitive use of colour and brush work, showing an understanding of European painting and abstraction. There is a video of the show here.