Modernist Begin­nings

Paul Kas­min Gallery high­lights the un­re­al­ized WPA mu­ral stud­ies of Lee Kras­ner

American Fine Art Magazine - - My View -

Paul Kas­min Gallery high­lights the un­re­al­ized WPA mu­ral stud­ies of Lee Kras­ner

In 1937, Lee Kras­ner was as­signed to fin­ish a mu­ral by Willem de Koon­ing, who was dis­missed from his Works Progress Ad­min­is­tra­tion project be­cause he was not a United States cit­i­zen. Kras­ner didn’t fin­ish the project, but the ex­pe­ri­ence in­flu­enced her own de­signs for the space. Mu­ral Stud­ies at Paul Kas­min Gallery brings to­gether eight of Kras­ner’s rarely ex­hib­ited, small-scale stud­ies for an un­re­al­ized WPA mu­ral. Gallery di­rec­tors Laura Lester and Eric Glea­son say,“kas­min Gallery is hon­ored to present an im­por­tant and rare glimpse into Lee Kras­ner’s early modernist

begin­nings, which co­in­cide with a water­shed mo­ment in Amer­i­can vis­ual his­tory.we are in­debted to the Pol­lock­kras­ner foun­da­tion for giv­ing us the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore this fas­ci­nat­ing as­pect of Kras­ner’s oeu­vre.”

The gouache on pa­per stud­ies on view were cre­ated in 1940, just as the artist be­gan ex­plor­ing ab­stract forms. On flat back­grounds, the geo­met­ric and biomor­phic forms dance off the page in vivid col­ors.the same des­ig­nated win­dow and doors spa­ces ap­pear in each study, sug­gest­ing she had a spe­cific, un­known space in mind while she was work­ing. Ev­i­dence of her 1937 foray into mu­rals is clear, with de Koon­ing’s in­ter­est in Fer­nand Léger and Bri­tish ab­strac­tion­ist Ben Nicholson re­flected in the stud­ies.

A crit­i­cal fig­ure in the first gen­er­a­tion of ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist pain­ters, Kras­ner’s early art classes with Hans Hof­mann proved to be for­ma­tive in the mat­u­ra­tion of her style. In the 1930s and ’40s, Kras­ner in­te­grated her­self fully into the Newyork art scene, run­ning in con­tem­po­rary cir­cles that in­cluded Jack­son Pol­lock, who even­tu­ally be­came her hus­band. Dur­ing their mar­riage, she cre­ated some of her most rec­og­niz­able work, in­clud­ing her Lit­tle Im­age series of paint­ings de­vel­oped in the late ’40s.

The small works on dis­play at Kas­min pro­vide rare in­sight into Kras­ner’s year of tran­si­tion to­ward ges­tu­ral ab­strac­tion, but are also his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant as a win­dow into the era of the Works Progress Ad­min­is­tra­tion. From 1935 un­til its clo­sure in 1942, the WPA fos­tered the early ca­reers of many 20th cen­tury artists, com­mis­sion­ing tens of thou­sands of pub­lic art­works dur­ing its short ten­ure.

Mu­ral Stud­ies opens on Septem­ber 13 and re­mains on view through Oc­to­ber 27.

Lee Kras­ner (1908-1984), Un­ti­tled Mu­ral Study, 1940. Gouache on pa­per, 17 x 22 in. © 2018 Pol­lock-kras­ner Foun­da­tion / Artists Rights So­ci­ety (ARS), New York.

Lee Kras­ner (1908-1984), Un­ti­tled Mu­ral Study, 1940. Gouache on pa­per, 17 x 22 in. © 2018 Pol­lock-kras­ner Foun­da­tion / Artists Rights So­ci­ety (ARS), New York.

Lee Kras­ner (1908-1984), Un­ti­tled Mu­ral Study, 1940. Gouache on pa­per, 15 x 20 in. © 2018 Pol­lock-kras­ner Foun­da­tion / Artists Rights So­ci­ety (ARS), New York.

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