AL HELD’S PARTICULAR PARADOX
By Naomi Barling
Al Held is the pioneering artist inspired by hardedge Abstraction, drawing from traditional painting techniques like Abstract Expressionism to Cubism. His work has been exhibited at world-class institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Steledjik Museum in Amsterdam. Now ,from May 06, 2015 – July 02, 2015 Van Doren Waxter will present Al Held: Particular Paradox, from a series by the same name. This will be his first solo exhibition of watercolors since the gallery began representing the drawings and watercolors from the Al Held Foundation in 2014.
Held grew up in the Bronx and dropped out of high school to join the Navy at 16, serving from 1945-47. In 1948, he studied at the Art Students League in New York, and from 1950-53 invoked the G.I. bill to attend the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris before returning to New York at the height of Abstract art. When returning to the United States in 1953, Held worked in Abstract Expressionism, creating the Taxi Cab series (late 1950’s) and the Alphabet Paintings (1961-67). In 1962, he became a professor at Yale School of Art where he would continue to teach until 1980.
During this time, the techniques of his later work was already forming; “I want to give abstract expressionism structure,” he once said. In the mid 1960’s, Held moved away from flatness and stiffness and in 1967 he began painting exclusively in black and white before returning to using colour in 1978.
Held was awarded a residency at the American Academy in Rome in 1981, an experience that would hugely influence his life and work from that point forward. He fell in love with Italy’s Baroque architecture and renaissance frescos and began studying Italian masters including Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Luca Signorelli, and Michelangelo.
Most of the work in this exhibition is Held’s modern artwork; the pieces are of large symmetric non-objective structures with vivid colors. He creates interlocking frameworks that show a strong consideration for architecture. You could describe Held’s images as abstract rooms or vibrant worlds that the viewers can escape too, however, the art is non-objective each individual is free to interpret the paintings as they please. On one hand the work has architectural qualities but at the same time the stokes of color are nonrepresentational of any actual structure.
Van Doren Waxter will house Al Held: Particular Paradox from May 6 – July 2, 2015. A fully illustrated catalogue, including an essay by Barbara Rose the American art historian and critic, accompanies the show.
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