Kessler writes: "I always had a hard time with Benton. I loved Abstract Expressionism and, as if I couldn't like them both, I considered Benton's work to be hokey and aesthetically retrograde. Well this exhibition turned me around. These murals are bold, passionate, often funny and downright beautiful... In addition to the mural in its re-created original setting, the show includes preparatory drawings and studies for the mural (the guy can draw!); and, from the Met's collection, a selection of work from the circle of artists around Brenton, including photographs by Berenice Abbott, an abstract painting by the Synchromist Stanton MacDonald-Wright and, most notably, a painting by one of Benton's students (who posed for some of the figures in this mural), Jackson Pollock."
Haber writes: "Although [Marsh] learned his bulky forms at the conservative Art Students League, where Kenneth Hayes Miller and Guy Pene de Bois tempered their Modernism with reverence for the past, Marsh alone stuck to egg tempera on composition board and masonite. And he liked it not because of its traditions of gilding and hand-ground pigments, but because it dries fast, so that painting became sketching on the spot... [Marsh] is not a realist like George Bellows, cutting corners when it comes to the facts in favor of a greater drama of place and class. Nor is he even quite an American Surrealist like George Tooker, for whom terror lurks behind every pillar in the subway. He is most definitely not a poet, a chronicler, or a formalist like Berenice Abbott, for whom a subway newsstand becomes a sea of histories and texts."
After visiting the recent exhibition Franz Kline: Coal and Steel at Baruch College's Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Tim Keane blogs about the origins of Franz Kline's classic black and white paintings and their unique ability embody a "kinetic" effect.
Keane writes: "To the extent that they represent an object outside themselves, Kline’s black-and-whites grasp the kinetic nature of things and the partial, incomplete nature of seeing. These paintings allude to parts of a whole, focusing on an indiscriminate component of a random structure, whose proportions are amplified by the black lines and enriched by the textured white ground. The brushstrokes, in their mutating blackness, seem to be moving. The lines they create point to realities outside the frame of the painting. These heavy lines are locomotives in the truest sense. The black contours oscillate, vibrate and harmonize according to a logic that only seems to emerge from the viewer’s stimulated attention to the pattern." Keane concludes: "In studying Kline’s black-and-whites, the images force us to recognize — to literally see — how our eyes, ahead of our thoughts, constantly orient our bodies in relation to space, and how peculiar or miraculous this fact is."
Elizabeth Johnson reports on the exhibition Franz Kline: Coal and Steel at the Allentown Art Museum, PA, on view through January 13, 2013.
Johnson writes: "Highlighting Kline’s childhood and attachment to the industrial Lehigh Valley, Coal and Steel unites Kline’s early realism with his late abstraction, framing the artist’s development within the beautiful but harsh environment we still experience today... Several never-before or rarely-seen urban paintings that Kline made in New York following the Ashcan School and American Precisionist styles sparkle in the exhibition." Johnson continues noting that curator Dr. Robert S. Mattison connects Kline's early work with that of "George Bellows, George Luks and John Sloan, and sees it as foretelling the structure of Kline’s later abstract art. Seeing 'Lower East Side Market,' a lovely, prismatic urban scene made in the Ashcan style, together with 'Chatham Square (circa 1948),' made in the Precisionist style, reveals Kline’s broad search for meaningful subject matter and a personal style."
James Panero reviews the biography Thomas Hart Benton: A Life by Justin Wolff "a keen critical recuperation, if not a defibrillation, of this unique American artist."
Panero notes that "Wolff is at his best exploring the philosophy behind the rise of Benton's new signature style, which he locates in the pragmatism of John Dewey. Benton did more than merely react to the avant-garde. He developed a compelling counterpoint to modernism that he believed was far more populist and progressive than the art theories coming out of Europe. He came to see, writes Wolff, that art “should be instrumental (a favorite term of Dewey’s) and work to clarify ordinary experiences rather than interrogate the mysteries of the world.' "
William Poundstone blogs about rediscovered American Regionalist painter Roger Medearis. Medearis, a student of Thomas Hart Benton, is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.
Poundstone writes that after Regionalism gave way to Abstract Expressionism "Medearis donned suit and tie to get a real job with Container Corporation of America. He moved back to the Midwest, then to California. In the 1960s dealer Philip Desind 'rediscovered' him. Medearis returned to art and worked up until his death at the age of 81, in San Marino."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.