Sunday, 30 January 2011

Milton Avery

There’s more photography to come, but in order that my blog posts don’t become monotonous I am going to mix it up with some features on mid-century painters. I’m intending to look at some of the artists associated with Abstract Expressionism, followed by artists (sometimes erroneously) associated with Pop Art.
And in no particular order…I’m starting with Milton Avery, mainly because his colourful semi-abstracted landscapes are in the same area that I’m currently working in, albeit in a very different style.

Milton Avery (1893 – 1965) was born at Sand Bank, New York. After studying for a while at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford under Charles Noel Flagg and at the Art Society School there under Albertus Jones, Avery worked in manufacturing and with an insurance company until 1924. He moved to New York in 1925 and married the artist Sally Michel, an illustrator, a year later.

He had his first one-man show as early as 1928 at the Opportunity Gallery in New York. The decades that followed saw him show work at numerous exhibitions mounted by New York galleries and American museums. Milton Avery's preoccupation with French Fauvism and German Expressionism led him to develop a simplified formal idiom distinguished by clarity of line and an expressive palette. Whereas Avery's early figurative drawings and paintings from the 1930s attest to affinities primarily with the work of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, by the 1940s he was discernibly close to Henri Matisse.

As the American upholder of Matisse's colouristic doctrine, Milton Avery developed the French artist's decorative colour surfaces into subtly toned colour zones, thus breaking the ground for the Colour Field painting of Mark Rothko (see blog post July 2010) and Adolph Gottlieb (blog post to come), both of whom were friends of his. Even though his style was close to abstraction, Milton Avery nonetheless clung to representation throughout his entire career. Classical motifs and subject matter in portraits, still lifes and coastal landscapes were his main thematic areas and genres.
Prolific as a painter, graphic artist and ceramist, Milton Avery received numerous awards from American art institutions before he died in 1965 although he only really became famous posthumously. He is now acclaimed as one of the most influential American C20th artists.

1930 The Artist's Wife

 1936 Vermont Hills

 1940 Gaspe - Pink Sky

1942 Woman Drawing

1943 Landscape

 1944 Autumn

 1944 Bridge to the Sea

1944 Sketching by the Sea

1945 Girl in Scarf

1945 Spring in Vermont

 1945 Three Cows on Hillside

1946 Homework

1947 Oregon Coast

1950 March and Sally Outdoors

1951 Clear Cut Landscape

 1952 Breaking Sea

 1952 Shapes of Spring

 1953 Advancing Sea

1953 Dancing Trees

 1953 Excursion on the Thames

 1954 Green Sea

 1954 White Wave

 1955 Spring Brook

1957 Birds Over Sea

 1957 White Moon

 1958 Green Sea

 1958 Offshore Island

 1958 Onrushing Wave

 1958 Sea Grasses and Blue Sea

Yellow Sky

 1959 Black Sea

 1959 Boathouse by the Sea

1959 Gull + Sea

1960 Interlude

 1961 Blue Bay and Dunes

Gaspé Landscape

Beach Study

Two Chickens

White Rooster

Friday, 28 January 2011

Michael Wolf photography The Transparent City

In the second part of my posts on Michael Wolf’s urban photography I’m taking a look at his The Transparent City series.

In 2006 when arriving in Chicago, Wolf took the elevated train into the city at dusk and was struck by the transparency of its architecture. After having worked in Asia for many years, Wolf saw Chicago as providing the opportunity to continue his study of city life in a radically different context. Shooting from public rooftops over the course of several months, Wolf adopted a similar visual approach to his architectural work in Hong Kong. However, the transparency and monumental size of Chicago’s buildings give a very different result: the city is far less dense than Hong Kong, thereby creating a greater sense of depth to the images, while the transparency of its glass skyscrapers causes the life within them to seep out.

The Transparent City surveys the density and magnitude of Chicago's skyline. Wolf's large-scale prints reveal the enormity of its skyscrapers at the same time they enable us to observe intimate and private goings on within individual apartments and offices. By cropping out traces of street and sky Wolf constructs an abstracted and endless world of windows, lights and reflections. He has created a group of photographs that remain familiar and at the same time fantastic.

From Aperture magazine:
“This is Wolf’s first body of work to address an American city. Whereas prior series have juxtaposed humanizing details within the surrounding geometry of the urban landscape, in The Transparent City, his details are fragments of life—digitally distorted and hyper-enlarged—snatched surreptitiously via telephoto lenses: Edward Hopper meets Blade Runner. The material resonates with all the formalism of the constructed, architectonic work for which Wolf is well-known, but also emphasises the conceptual underpinnings of his ongoing engagement with the idea of how modern life unfolds within the framework of the ever-growing contemporary city.”