ABSTRACT Romare Bearden

OPENING TODAY 6-8 pm February 13

On view through March 28, 2020 – DC Moore Gallery presents “Abstract Romare Bearden” an exhibition featuring rarely-seen stain and collaged paintings from 1958-1962 by one of the most renowned visual artists of the 20th century. Also on view, will be selected works from earlier and later periods. The abstract paintings shed light on Bearden’s continual interest in experimental techniques. They also provide new context to the influence his earlier work had on this period, and how these seminal paintings contributed to the development of his later well-known collages.

By 1957, Bearden had moved to pure abstraction. His dynamic new canvases were larger, all-over paintings of organic, atmospheric forms, merging and coalescing. A critic noted in an exhibition review, “they are full of suggestions of stratified earth, subaqueous suspensions and clear auroras of atmosphere.”[i] As with Heart of Autumn (c. 1960), he created active surfaces and rich tonal effects with paint that flows across the canvas or is worked in several different ways. In others, he began to use collage elements of painted, torn paper or applied canvas. The underlying canvas plays an important role in many of the works, too, as the paint is often thinly applied, resulting in lyrical abstractions of distinctive beauty.

In most cases, Bearden painted unstretched canvas rolled out on the floor, like some of his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries. He frequently worked from all four sides, sometimes lifting the canvas so that paint flowed freely. He rubbed turpentine onto a freshly painted surface as well, thinning it so that only a few stains remained. Repeating the process two or three times, he gradually built the composition. Spatters, slashes, and drips were another aspect of his method.

Not only was Bearden well aware of contemporary practice, but he had also been involved with some of the artists of the evolving Abstract Expressionist group since his return to New York from military service in the mid-1940s. He joined the Kootz Gallery in 1945 and had three consecutive solo shows there. At the time, Samuel Kootz also represented Robert Motherwell, Adolph Gottlieb, and William Baziotes, among others, and showed the work of Arshile Gorky and Hans Hofmann. Kootz had group meetings with the artists on a regular basis, so Bearden would have had many opportunities to discuss their current work as well as his own.

In light of this, it is not surprising that when he started painting again in the mid-1950s after his brief excursion into songwriting, Bearden largely set aside his earlier figural modernism and turned to abstraction. Foregoing thematic content—except what is suggested by the evocative titles that he and his wife, Nanette, gave to the works—he began painting freely and on a larger scale, embracing a more intuitive approach based on improvisation and chance.

Text excerpted from www.DCMooreGallery.com 

DC Moore Gallery is the exclusive representative of the Romare Bearden Estate and Romare Bearden Foundation. Located at 535 W 22nd Street, NY, NY 10011

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