Jean Dubuffet (1901 – 1985) sought to replicate the immediacy of the art of the untutored. In this sheet, he incised four figures into a ground of opaque watercolor, exposing the sandpaper he used as a support. The technique shares more with graffiti and the scrawls of children than with academic drawing. The artist once remarked, “When I say ‘draw,’ I’m not to the slightest degree thinking of faithfully reproducing objects . . . No, its a matter of something quite different: to animate the paper, to make it palpitate.”
In works such as Relief No. 30 (1946), Raúl Lozza fragmented the surface of painting into discrete parts — usually, irregular geometric shapes — that he fixed in a particular configuration with connecting rods. Known as Coplanals, these constructions are placed directly onto the wall without any framing mechanism. The empty space in between their shapes thus becomes a part of the work.
Lozza investigated the possibilities of the coplanal for years, founding the Perceptismo group with his brothers. They developed a mathematical approach to painting that focused on the relationship between the wall and the coplanal’s dimensions and colors.
Mirror of Life (1946), like many of Henry Koerner’s paintings, reveals the artist’s preoccupation with his experiences during World War II. Born in Vienna to Jewish parents, Koerner (1915 – 1991) escaped Austria following Hitler’s1938 invasion, fleeing first to Italy and subsequently to the United States. Soon after, he was drafted by the US military and stationed in Europe, where he was assigned to sketch the proceedings of the Nuremberg trials, the military tribunals in which leaders of Nazi Germany were tried for war crimes. Koerner returned to Vienna in 1946 only to learn that his parents, who’d stayed in Austria, had died in concentration camps during the war. Mirror of Life emerges from this context of conflict and loss. Disorienting juxtapositions — night and day, biblical events and present-day life, ordinary pastimes and bizarre phenomena — present a chaotic and disjunctive reflection of reality. The shirtless man leaning out of his window seems to be a stand-in for the artist. Home, for him, is not only the place where one resides but also a vantage point to witness all that has been lost.
Created in the aftermath of World War II, Painting (1946) is likely a veiled portrait of Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who often carried an umbrella and has gone down in history for his policy of accommodation of the Nazi regime. His dark suit is punctuated by a bright yellow boutonniere, yet his bared teeth and concealed gaze suggest brutality. This sense of menace is accentuated by the cow carcasses suspended behind him. The drawn window shades evoke those found in a widely circulated photograph of Hitler’s bunker, an image that Francis Bacon included in mulipleworks. Bacon claimed that this work was an accident; he had originally set out to paint a bird descending onto a field.