7 Painters, 7 Stories: Seeking A Synthesis Between Abstraction And Representation
“You can’t escape your time - some embrace it, some fight it, as for me, I supposed I had a contrarian streak in me,” notes artist Paul Resika, one of the seven artists whose work is on view at the National Academy Museum in See It Loud: Seven Post-War American Painters.
In the years after World War II, a group of young New York artists known as the New York School formed the basis for Abstract Expressionism, a school of painting in America that exerted a major influence on international artists. Artists Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), Willem de Kooning (1904–1997), and Mark Rothko (1903–1970) were among the movement’s leaders. They abandoned formal composition and the representation of real objects and concentrated on instinctual arrangements of space and color.
During this time, abstraction and representation were not only polarized in the American art world, but seemingly irreconcilable. “There was very nearly a moral dimension to the opposition between representation and abstraction,” states Bruce Weber, Senior Curator of 19th and Early 20th Century Art and the curator of the exhibition. “American painters who came of age in the 1940s and 1950s were expected to choose an allegiance between the two.”
It was in this cultural moment that the painters in See It Loud were beginning their careers. Crossing the line and ultimately embracing the possibilities of a dialectical synthesis between abstraction and representation, Paul Georges, Paul Resika, Leland Bell, Albert Kresch, Peter Heinemann, and Neil Welliver, born before the outbreak of World War II, ventured to claim this aesthetic no-man’s land. Their junior contemporary, Stanley Lewis, born ten years after the youngest of those six, boldly joined them. Their art grew out of abstract currents, but shifted toward representation.
According to Weber, “All of the artists in this exhibition insisted on the significance of figuration and landscape painting, even when it seemed irretrievably out of fashion. All felt in some degree limited by abstraction and were, in fact, members of a larger group of American artists who wanted to go beyond abstraction.”
See It Loud, on view until January 26, is the first museum exhibition devoted to this group of post-war American painters. #
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