Lee Krasner "Paintings 1959-1965"

Robert Miller Gallery

poster for Lee Krasner "Paintings 1959-1965"

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“Something decisive and difficult is going on in these works. Krasner seems to be descending into a private maelstrom. The sheer, swirling force of the brushwork is such that if you look steadily into the painting for a few minutes, you begin to feel that you are falling into it.”
John Ash, Artforum, May 1993

From 1959 to 1962 Krasner created a body of predominantly burnt umber, cream, and white works. Some were painted in the barn studio at The Springs and some in New York City. At that time, Krasner suffered from chronic insomnia and all these works were painted at night in artificial light. Despite her reputation as a lyric colorist, Krasner stated that, “I realized that if I was going to work at night, I would have to knock color out altogether, because I wouldn’t deal with color except in daylight.”

These works are characterized accurately as psychoanalytically motivated “mourning” pictures, each generated by a “night journey”. Krasner termed their creation the product of “a descent,” the result of going “down deep into something which wasn’t easy or pleasant.” With this process she produced a dramatic set of canvases with a mythic, explosive quality vividly projecting her turmoil. Each canvas in this series is animated by Krasner’s distinctive, powerful, backhand motion, advancing rhythmically from right to left in huge, curvilinear sweeps. In most, she interspersed sprays and arcs of pigment with drips produced by vigorous thrusting and stabbing with a brush. Breaking with pure abstraction, Krasner sometimes coalesces into representation of starring eyes, suggestions of foliage, wind, sparks, feathers, and wings.

In Krasner’s concern with depicting more than the corporal, there is pervasive interest in a confessional psychological narrative. The aptly titled monumental painting Another Storm had many layers of psychological associations for Krasner. These included a combination of her terror of thunder as a child and the reply Pollock gave her in response to his drunken behavior, “Think of it as a storm, it will pass.” Bird Image and Flowering Limb were the result of Krasner turning back to nature for inspiration. The tighter technique in Flowering Limb is an invention born of necessity, the result of the physical disability of a broken wrist and the cast that restrained her gesture. Her fingertips were free, so she used them to move her left hand around in order to paint, applying paint directly onto the canvas from the tube in short backhanded arching gestures. Kufic, 1965, is painted in Krasner’s characteristic right to left, as if she were inscribing Hebrew and whose title refers to a form of Arabic. This composition is written, rather than drawn exhibiting her distinctive gesture in skeletal form. The four untitled black and white gouache and ink works on paper were made just before the “night journeys”. With these Krasner reversed her creative energies and retreated inward projecting a darker mood fraught with psychological unrest, claustrophobic compositions and highly sexualized play.

Lee Krasner was born in Brooklyn in 1908. She attended the Art Students League, Cooper Union, and the National Academy of Design. She also studied with Hans Hofmann. In 1945 Krasner married fellow painter, Jackson Pollock. The union had a profound and mutual influence on their respective careers. Krasner, constantly at arms with the male dominated art world, did not gain recognition as a preeminent, first generation Abstract Expressionist until late in her life. She died in 1984 and left behind an ever growing legacy and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.



from November 19, 2010 to January 29, 2011

Opening Reception on 2010-11-18 from 18:00 to 20:00


Lee Krasner

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