Robert MOTHERWELL |
View this artist's available pieces here.
United States (USA) 1915 - 1991
Born Jan 24 1915, Aberdeen Washington, USA. Died July 16 1991.
American painter, Motherwell strongly believed that meaning is conveyed through gesture and structure, in the bold black marks and red slashes.
As an innovator of Abstract Expressionism, Motherwell played a major role in the history of modern American painting. He was the youngest and most prolific of the group of artists based in New York, where he continued to create new works until his death in 1991 at age 76.
His early training was in art history and aesthetics.Motherwell was a philosophy graduate of Stanford and Harvard, but showed early interest in art. His studies led him to Europe in the late 1930's where he obtained new insights into modern art. After his return to New York in 1940, Motherwell studied under the art historian Meyer Shapiro at Columbia University, and began experimenting with abstract gestures. He decided to devote himself completely to painting, a decision which held little promise for anything but hard work and probable discouragement. Yet, a few short years later, he was to find himself one of the leading figures in the best known American art movement, Abstract Expressionism. Motherwell's year in Europe placed him in a special position, allowing him to bridge not only the language barrier but also the aesthetic gulf which divided American artists from European surrealist artists in exile in New York, such as Andre Masson, Yves Tanguy and Max Ernst.
He studied painting with the Chilean Surrealist Matta in Mexico in 1941, when he adopted Surrealist psychic automatism.Motherwell was active in the transformation of European Surrealism, a movement motivated by the human psyche, and he guided its assimilation and acceptance by fellow American artists. As his own art evolved, he came to believe that when you have a pre-determined idea, you have academic art by definition. This concept of allowing the form to dictate the idea rather than the idea dictate the form was a radical concept in the 1940's and became the basis for the Abstract Expressionism movement, which included Jackson Pollock and Willem deKooning.
In the early 1940's, Motherwell experimented with lithography techniques at Atelier 17, a printing studio which attracted many young and promising artists in its day.
His first one-man show was at Peggy Guggenheim's gallery 'The Art of this Century' (1944). Soon after he became famous with his series known as 'Elegies to the Spanish Republic': horizontal paintings with black vertical Arp-like fomrs, alternately large and small, also reminiscnet of Matisse cutouts. He taught at Black Mountain College, North Carolina (from 1945) and Hunter College, N.Y. (1951-58). A leading art theorist, Motherwell was the editor od 'Documents of Modern Art', 'The Dada Painters and Poets' and, with A. Reinhardt, 'Modern Artists in America' (1951).
It was not until the early 1960's that Motherwell returned to printmaking to explore his artistic theories. Similar to his paintings, Motherwell experimented in his prints with a limited range of motifs and colors. In Running Elegy II, Red State, dense black forms consume the white of the paper while bright red flashes of color add dramatic flair and guide the eye around the fluid forms. Motherwell's extensive use of black has dominated his paintings and prints. In his own words, Motherwell would "use black massively as a color form rather than an absence of color. With an economy of style that resonates with passion, his work is to visual imagery what haiku is to lyrical poetry. Quiet, mysterious, dramatic and universal, it speaks collectively of life, death, love, loss and primal longing.
Also in the ASU Art Museum's collection is Robert Motherwell's painting Drawing with Red and Black Oval (1987). A legend in his own time, Motherwell received virtually everyhonor that could be bestowed upon a living artist. If you are interested in learning more about Motherwell's printing techniques and the role collaboration played in his artwork, read Reconciliation Elegy by Robert Motherwell and published by Rizzoli International in 1980. Also read Robert Motherwell: What Art Holds by Mary Ann Caws and published by Columbia University Press in 1996. ...
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