In his writing, teaching, and powerful abstract works, Hans Hofmann advocated for what he called the dynamic “push and pull” of color, light, and shape as the best means for achieving a sense of space, movement, and emotion in painting. Filled with bold strokes the in some cases join to form larger, irregular blocks of color, Deep Within the Ravine (1965) features a pool of deep blue-black that appears compressed by passages of green and orange around it. Exhibiting Hofmann’s interest in complementary hues (blue / orange and green / red) for their inherent contrast, the painting is part of The Renate Series, a group of nine compositions he created as a tribute to his wife in 1965.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
For more than sixty years, Alex Katz has created paintings distinguished by their bold colors, sharp outlines, and subjects taken from his daily life. By simplifying facial features and using flat, unmixed colors in works such as Edwin, Blue Series (1965), Katz emphasizes the form of the painting above its content. Here, he has cropped the left side of the body, asserting the figure as a subject of abstraction. The painting depicts Edwin Denby, a modernist poet and dance critic as well as a close friend of artists including Katz, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, and Franz Kline. Katz credits Denby for his appreciation of abstraction. Refusing to reveal his subjects’ personalities or interior life, Katz’s paintings focus instead on technique and visual invention.
Rosalyn Drexler’s work often explores the dark backstories of postwar media culture and gender roles through imagery taken from mass-produced printed materials. For Love and Violence (1965), she enlarged a poster from the 1963 Hollywood film, Toys in the Attic, collaged it onto canvas and then painted over it within a flattened visual field. In this image, the movie’s main character, played by Dean Martin, embraces the female lead, Yvette Mimieux, with his hands at her chin. By setting the image against a red background, above cinematic scenes of brutality, Drexler highlights the threat implied by the male character’s seemingly intimate gesture. In the artist’s words, these popular images were “hidden but present, like a disturbing memory.”
Paul Feeley (1910 – 1966) has often been associated with Color Field painters, but his most recognized works, largely made between 1962 and 1965, stand apart from those of his peers for their economy of color and spare compositions. Formal Haut (1965), produced the year before Feeley’s death, features his signature forms, namely a single jack (inspired by the game of jacks) and repeated baluster shapes. Their convex and concave contours interlock in a symmetrical arrangement, centered within the square frame. The simple geometric design is highlighted by an equally uncomplicated palette, limited to just two contrasting colors on unprimed canvas.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting, On Through August 2nd, 2020 at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.
For Venezuelan artist Antonieta Sosa, Ajedrez Visual(Visual Chess), 1965, was “like my spinal column or my umbilical cord, uniting me to painting.” Scattered pops of color interrupt the regularity of the black grid, animating it with the playful movement suggested by the work’s title.
At times, these contrasting hues prompt an optical flickering or afterimage. To Sosa, such retinal effects underscore vision as a dynamic physiological process. Thus, Visual Chess foreshadows her eventual decisions to “come down from the wall” to engage with real space and bodies in the form of sculpture, performance and installations.