Raphael Rubinstein considers the influence of Henri Matisse - whose work "under the best conditions, gives considerable space to other artists to construct something new" - on a group of American painters in post-war Paris, including: Sam Francis, Shirley Jaffe, Norman Bluhm, Joan Mitchell and Kimber Smith.
Rubinstein argues that these painters shared a connection to Matisse through French art historian Georges Duthuit: "All these painters were marked by their years in Paris in ways that set them apart from their U.S.-bound contemporaries, but the importance of their encounter with the work of Matisse, and with Duthuit’s interpretation of it, can’t be underestimated."
Roth writes that "this exhibit makes clear, some of the strongest influences on Francis’ approach to painting were his own near-death experiences. They arrived at regular intervals. The first came after a WWII air training exercise, when it was discovered, following a crash, that he had spinal tuberculosis... In his first mature works, you can see precisely how his early experiences – flight, the study of medicine and botany and watching the play of light from his hospital bed – informed his painting. Light, in particular, seems to be the subject of a suite of early works that open the show... Notable among them are several untitled works from 1957-59 that make direct reference to the body, in particular, to the spine. They feature bold-colored shapes, splayed and lightly spattered – key components of what would later be dubbed post-painterly abstraction, a term applied by Clement Greenberg to a diverse group of artists who leaned toward open compositions made of washes and areas of poured color."
Poundstone writes: "Curated by Peter Selz and Debra Burchett-Lere, [the show] begins with the figurative watercolors Francis did as therapy from an army hospital bed in his 20s and ends with examples of the poured drip paintings he managed from a wheelchair, with one working arm, in his last illness at age 71... the PMCA show gives viewers opportunity to decide which phase of Francis they think best. I still favor the French Francis, and his 1953 watercolor Cote d’Azur (from the Broad collection) is worth a trip in itself."
Halasz writes that the exhibitions"might be said to constitute one show of three generations. The first show celebrates Perle Fine, an artist associated with the first generation of abstract expressionists; they mostly came to their artistic maturity in the later 1940s. The second exhibition offers work by a group of artists usually associated with the second generation of abstract expressionists: they mostly established their reputations in the 1950s and 1960s. One of the few exceptions in this group didn’t have his first solo exhibition until 1985, and thus represents a third generation. This artist, James Walsh, is further featured in a small exhibition of his own."
Paul Behnke photoblogs the recent exhibition The Lure of Paris at Loretta Howard Gallery, New York. The show highlights the lesser known influence of Paris on mid-century American artists and features work by Biala, Norman Bluhm, Ed Clark, Harold Cousins, Beauford Delaney, Sam Francis, Shirley Goldfarb, Cleve Gray, Al Held, Shirley Jaffe, Conrad Marca-Relli, Joan Mitchell, Jules Olitski, Milton Resnick, Jean-Paul Riopelle, George Sugarman, and Jack Youngerman.
Sol Ostrow writes in the catalogue: "In the 1950s, with the triumph of the New York School, the United States for the first time in history had produced visual art of international consequence. Yet, artists from the United States and from all over Europe continued to flock to Paris just as the center of the western art world was shifting to New York... Their reasons varied. Some saw it as an opportunity to be cosmopolitan or to satisfy their wanderlust; others may have imagined the Paris of Le Jazz Hot, café society, and the romance of the pre-war avant-garde, or the chance to see works by Vuillard, Bonnard, Matisse, etc., that they knew only from black and white reproductions. In most cases the women artists had accompanied their significant others, while like the generation before them, the Afro-American artists, sought to escape the racism that was endemic in the States."
Deborah Barlow posts about the paintings on view at the multi-venue art exhibition Pacific Standard Time, including paintings by Ed Moses, John Altoon, Lee Mullican, Mary Corse, Richard Diebenkorn, Ronald Davis, and Sam Francis.
Barlow writes that "The experience (of the exhibitions) as it turns out is even more overwhelming and implication-rich than I imagined... And even though I spent my early life on the West Coast and am very familiar with the work of many of these California artists, the visual impact still has me feeling a bit too dizzied to offer a linear account."
John Seed muses on Sam Francis' painting Basel Mural I in the collection of the Norton Simon Museum. Seed writes "If you haven't seen the Basel Mural, you very likely don't know what Sam Francis was capable of at the height of his powers... I also feel strongly that [the painting] has something to do with experience of flight. 'I have destroyed the ring of the horizon and got out of the circle of objects,' exhorted the Russian abstractionist Kasmir Malevich, 'Comrade aviators, sail on into the depths.' That is the call that I think Francis was heeding, the lure of the depths of the unfathomable and the purely abstract."
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.