Van de Weghe Fine Art is pleased to present an exhibition of Abstract Expressionist works on paper by renowned artists Arshille Gorky, Mark Tobey, Franz Kline, Sam Francis and Jean Dubuffet. Abstract Expressionism came to prominence in the years following World War II, with New York as its epicenter. It is characterized by its focus on gesture and materiality and disregard for pictorial representation. These artists worked both in and outside of New York, and there is a striking range of technique and pictorial effects which points to the nuances inherent to the movement.
Arshille Gorky (1904-1948) fled Armenia, and settled in New York in 1920. Gorky’s nostalgia for the landscape and memories of his youth played a central role in his work, which is characterized by abstract passages and bursts of line and color fused with lyrical and surreal forms. Drawing was integral to his process and he made scores of them on regular retreats to his wife’s family’s home, Crooked Run Farm in Virginia, an example of which, Fireplace in Virginia, c.1946, is included in the exhibition. Gorky had a profound influence on successive generations of artists and is considered to be the father of Abstract Expressionism.
Mark Tobey (1890-1976), originally from the American Mid-West, lived in New York briefly, but spent the majority of his adult life in Seattle. He travelled widely and was greatly influenced by Asian calligraphy and Eastern religions. He was a convert to the Baha’i faith, which stresses the equality and unity of mankind. Tobey’s mature work, the most beautiful of which is from the 1950s, is characterized by what he referred to as “white writing,” a vast array of calligraphic markings overlaying and animating the surface. Tobey described these marks as the movement of light - a unifying force. His brushstrokes are delicate, layered and fill the space in its entirety. There is a tension in Tobey’s work between East and West, surface and depth, evolution and timelessness.
Franz Kline (1910-1962), born in Wilkes-Barr Pennsylvania, is a quintessential painter of Abstract Expressionism’s New York School and is best known for his black and white compositions striking for their energetic gesture and immediacy. Two examples are included in the exhibition, each Untitled from 1957 and 1958. The space in Kline’s work is an event, a record of the choreography between the painter and his painting. Despite the appearance of swiftness and improvisation in his works, the artist worked slowly and drawing was an essential part of his process.
Sam Francis (1923-1994), originally from California, became a painter after he was injured during a plane crash while in the Air Force. He was given watercolors in the hospital as a form of occupational therapy. Francis moved to Paris where he was deeply inspired by the palette of Monet. Untitled, 1955, utilizes Monet’s layered brushstrokes and transparent color in order to create space. He was a gifted colorist, splashing and splattering his compositions with lush hues, allowing the white ground to show through, and shares importance with Rothko in focusing on color as a subject.
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985), lived in France, and invented the term art brut to characterize work by untrained artists who were often excluded from society. He drew inspiration from this idea throughout his work, tapping into his own primal and spiritual energies. Paysage, 1960, is part of a group of works called Matériologies, which focused on media with no intention of objective representation. The work is an amalgam of dots, dashes and splatters of ink encompassing the paper in its entirety. The concentration of these gestures in the small space of the paper makes a powerful impact.
The works featured are prime examples of each artist’s oeuvre, and as works on paper, are essential in understanding their relative processes and motivations. The Abstract Expressionist movement can be seen as the starting point for all subsequent Contemporary art. It was a revolution in pictorial language and its expressive force continues to fascinate. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, from 10:00am to 6:00pm, and by appointment. For further information, please contact Jenn Viola at [email protected].