Exposition Art Blog: February 2018

George McNeil

George McNeil (February 22, 1908 – January 11, 1995) was an American abstract expressionist painter.George McNeil was born in Queens, New York, on February 22, 1908, the youngest child of an Irish Catholic working-class family. He attended Brooklyn Tech High School and the Pratt Institute, which he left before gaining his degree. He then copied works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and attended classes at the Art Students League, where he studied with Jan Matulka in 1931–32. From 1932 to 1936 he studied with Hans Hofmann, becoming Hofmann’s monitor (assistant) and teaching a class in collage. In 1936 he became one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists group and from 1935 worked in the Mural and Easel section of the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. In 1936 he married fellow Hofmann student Dora Tamler, with whom he had two children, Helen and James. During the late 1930s he traveled to Mexico and in 1940–41 he visited Cuba. During World War II he served in the US Navy from 1943 to 1946. He also gained an Ed.D from Columbia University. From the late 1940s he was deeply involved with the abstract expressionist movement, also known as the New York School of painting. Apart from 1946–48, when he lived and taught in Laramie, Wyoming, and 1956–57 when he taught at the University of California, Berkeley, George McNeil lived from the late 1940s until his death in Brooklyn. From 1948 to 1962 he spent his summers in the art colony of Provincetown, MA. He died in New York on January 11, 1995

From the Cubist-influenced compositions of his earlier Hofmann student years, McNeil moved to full abstraction by 1936. His early 1950s paintings were "both abstract and expressionist" with an active surface “ very moving, full of feeling, emotional”displaying the “painterly touch” that was identified with the artists exhibiting at the Charles Egan Gallery. His paintings remained fully abstract until the early 1960s when figures and faces began to appear in the abstract field, particularly in the "Dancer" and "Bather" series. McNeil commented to art historian Irving Sandler in 1968: my work has always had not a human figure image, but it always had a figural image. There always seems to be some kind of center image...that is figural, or imagistic.... is not only found: it’s completely abstract. You see this is the whole thing: I’m not a figure painter at all. I’m an abstract painter where I hope that bringing in the figure brings in certain human or psychological connotations or associations.

From 1980, dynamic situations such as discos, New York City, football, street life or graffiti activate his paintings. His work is characterized by profound attention to color and complex abstract volumes. In the 1980s his work enjoyed a renaissance of attention and influence. From 1970 to 1991 McNeil made lithographs that he printed on his own press or at the Tamarind Institute, Albuquerque, NM, where he was invited four times in the 1980s.From 1946 to 1948 McNeil taught at the University of Wyoming. In 1948 he became Director of the Evening Art School at the Pratt Institute, where he hired several of his fellow New York School artists such as Philip Guston, Adolph Gottlieb, Franz Kline, Reuben Nakian, Milton Resnick, Jack Tworkov and others. He taught undergraduate art history and then painting in the M.F.A. program to 1981, and taught at the New York Studio School 1966–81. His teaching influenced generations of young artists including Robert Wilson, Thomas Nozkowski and Maxine Yalowitz-Blankenship. He also taught at Skowhegan and the Vermont Studio School.Wikipedia

John Altoon - American Abstract Art

John Altoon (November 5, 1925 - February 8, 1969), an American artist, was born in Los Angeles to immigrant Armenian parents. From 1947–1949 he attended the Otis Art Institute, from 1947 to 1950 he also attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, and in 1950 the Chouinard Art Institute. Altoon was a prominent figure in the LA art scene in the 1950s and 1960s. Exhibitions of his work have been held at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, The Baxter Museum, Pasadena, and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (opened June 2014).
Altoon's work was influenced by the Abstract Expressionism Movement although he is best known for his figurative drawings of the 1960s, with as Leah Ollman describes "a vocabulary of vaguely figurative, botanical and biological forms that he pursued until his death." He was part of the "Ferus group" of artists so called for their association to the Ferus Gallery that operated in Los Angeles in 1957–1966.Some of the other artists included in this group are Edward Kienholz, Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Billy Al Bengston. Cool School documentary film about Altoon and other Ferus Gallery artists, many Ferus artists say John was the most fun and friendliest of all, every where everyone liked him. He could charm anyone.Altoon, during his Ferus Gallery years, did the Ocean Park series which depicted an area around Venice and Santa Monica beach towns in California. The series was 18 paintings as well some works he did on paper. It had the direct from brain to hand & brush approach he was known for:[4] the abstracting of nature on his canvas by pushing through a spontaneous approach, freehand biomorphic in design giving us his interpretation as a direct rendering of the coastal surroundings.Wikipedia

Expressionism - Petar Mazev

Petar Mazev (February 10, 1927 in Kavadarci – March 13, 1993 in Skopje) was a Macedonian academic painter, who is considered one of the most important postwar painters who introduced new energy into contemporary Macedonian art.He graduated from the Academy of arts in Belgrade, Socialist Republic of Serbia in 1953 where he studied under painter Zoran Petrovic. He was professor at the Faculty of Architecture in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia. He graduated from the Academy of Painting Arts in Belgrade. He had held individual exhibitions in the United States, China, India, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and other countries.He was a member of the artistic group "Mugri".Expressionism was a constant presence in his paintings, but before choosing expressionism, he went through several phases including his White Phase and Warm Phase. In the mid-1960s, Mazev started to include in his non-figurative paintings in muted colours and rendered in dense and grainy impasto with materials such as burnt wooden plates, glass, scrap-metal sheets, and sand. In addition to paintings (mostly oil on canvas), he was also the author of murals, mosaics and ceramic arts.Wikipedia


John Grillo - American Abstract Expressionism

"John Grillo was an American Abstract Expressionist painter whose brightly colorful works represent a unique vision with the movement. His works are appreciate for their golden luminosity and lush brushwork that is comparable to earlier masterful painters such as J.M.W. Turner or Peter Paul Rubens. Filled with a lyrical rhythmic quality, Grillo once said that “abstract painting is on a level with music. It’s a physical outburst from your whole being. It’s not the idea that is created and then you start painting. It’s always a challenge to shape something from nothing, to do the impossible.” Born on July 4, 1917 in Lawrence, MA, the young artist was initially influenced by the Ashcan School of painters, including John Sloan and Robert Henri, while attending the Hartford School of Fine Arts. After serving in the US Navy, he studied at the San Francisco School of Fine Arts under Bay Area Figurative artist Richard Diebenkorn before moving to New York and taking classes with Hans Hofmann, who became and lifelong influence on and supporter of Grillo. Today, his works are in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Grillo died on November 26, 2014 in Hyannis, MA."(artnet)


Minimalism Art John Harvey McCracken

John Harvey McCracken (December 9, 1934 – April 8, 2011)was a minimalist artist. He lived and worked in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and New York.Internationally recognized John McCracken commenced developing his earliest sculptural work while in grad school at California College of Arts and Crafts along with Minimalists John Slorp and Peter Schnore, and painters Tom Nuzum, Vincent Perez, and Terry StJohn, 1964, 1965. Equally well known Dennis Oppenheim, enrolled in the M.F.A. program at nearby Stanford, was a frequent visitor to this more vibrant graduate program. While experimenting with increasingly three-dimensional canvases, McCracken began to produce art objects made with industrial techniques and materials, plywood, sprayed lacquer, pigmented resin, creating the ever more minimalistic works featuring highly-reflective, smooth surfaces. He applied techniques akin to those used in surfboard construction—popular in Southern California. Later McCracken was part of the Light and Space movement that includes James Turrell, Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Robert Irwin and others. In interviews, however, he usually cited his greatest influences as the hard edge works of the Abstract Expressionist Barnett Newman and Minimalists like Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Carl Andre.Early objects created by John McCracken were derived from company logos such as the Chevron corporation logo. His sculptures deal with the interrelationships existing between the material world and design

In 1966, McCracken generated his signature sculptural form: the plank, a narrow, monochromatic, rectangular board format that leans at an angle against the wall (the site of painting) while simultaneously entering into the three-dimensional realm and physical space of the viewer. He conceived the plank idea in a period when artists across the stylistic spectrum were combining aspects of painting and sculpture in their work and many were experimenting with sleek, impersonal surfaces. As the artist noted, "I see the plank as existing between two worlds, the floor representing the physical world of standing objects, trees, cars, buildings,  human bodies, ... and the wall representing the world of the imagination, illusionist painting space,  human mental space."  The sculptures consist of plywood forms coated with fiberglass and layers of polyester resin. While the polished resin surface recalls the aesthetic of 1960s southern California surfboard and Kustom Kar cultures, the title was drawn from advertising slogans in fashion magazines In addition to the planks, the artist also creates wall pieces and free-standing sculptures in varying geometrical shapes and sizes, ranging from smaller forms on pedestals to large-scale, outdoor structures in the shape of pyramids, ziggurats, tetrahedrons and occasionally crystals. He worked in highly polished stainless steel and bronze and occasionally made work that in effect sliced the planks into thin, repeating elements that leaned against the wall in rows.

In McCracken's work, color was also used as "material." Bold solid colors with their highly polished finish reflect the unique California light or mirror the observer in a way that takes the work into another dimension. His palette included bubble-gum pink, lemon yellow, deep sapphire and ebony, usually applied as a monochrome. Sometimes an application of multiple colors marbleizes or runs down the sculpture's surface, like a molten lava flow. McCracken typically makes each resin or lacquer work by hand rather than using industrial fabrication. Each is handmade by McCracken himself, who carefully paints them.The monochrome surfaces are sanded and polished many times to such a degree of reflectiveness that they seem translucent. He also made objects of softly stained wood or, in recent years, highly polished bronze and reflective stainless steel. In 2010, for example, he created various sculptures that are polished to produce such a high degree of reflectivity that they simultaneously activate their surroundings and seem entirely camouflaged.In 1971-72 he made a rarely seen series of paintings based on Hindu and Buddhist mandalas, first shown at Castello di Rivoli in 2011. "John McCracken: Sketchbook" was published in 2008 by Santa Fe-based Radius Books.During the 1970s and early '80s, a period when he devoted his time to teaching at the University of Nevada in Reno and Las Vegas and at the University of California, Santa Barbara, McCracken received relatively little critical attention. A 1985 move to Los Angeles with his wife, artist Gail Barringer, revived his career in terms of newly conceived bodies of work, gallery and museum exhibitions, and recognition by a younger generation of artists, dealers, and curators.McCracken had lived in Santa Fe since 1994.Wikipedia