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Posts Tagged ‘Milton Avery’

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What was Avery’s repertoire? His living room, Central Park, his wife Sally, his daughter March, the beaches and mountains where they summered; cows, fish heads, the flight of birds; his friends and whatever world strayed through his studio: a domestic, unheroic cast. But from these there have been fashioned great canvases, that far from the casual and transitory implications of the subjects, have always a gripping lyricism, and often achieve the permanence and monumentality of Egypt.

Mark Rothko, 1965

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While not a huge fan of the paintings of Milton Avery upon my first encounters with it, I find myself respecting and appreciating his work the more I look at and read about it.

Born in 1885, Avery worked blue-collar jobs into his thirties. He felt a desire to paint and began taking classes while still toiling as a laborer, working in obscurity for many years. He moved from pure representation of his subjects to an abstracted representation built on blocks of color and a flattening of the picture plane that became his signature style. His work eventually was recognized by a wealthy collector who set out to make it better known by distributing it among various American museums.

It worked and Avery became a leading light of the early abstract movement with his abstracted takes on representation and was considered a master colorist, sometimes referred to as the American Matisse. He died in 1965 at the age of 80.

I find that there are commonalities between us that give me a better sense of his work. First, there is his late entry in the world of art and a prior existence as a blue-collar worker. I certainly can relate to that.

Then there is his use of blocks of color, especially colors that seem radical for the subject. Looking at his work, I can easily relate to how he composed his paintings, how each block of color relates to those around it.

I also like the fact that Mark Rothko pointed out the lyricism of his work which refers to the fact that his painting, even when the subject matter seems most mundane, has high emotional notes that give it great weight beyond the subject matter. That lyric quality is something I desire in my own work.

I also like some of the writings from Avery especially one quote that rings true for me:

I try to construct a picture in which shapes, spaces, colors, form a set of unique relationships, independent of any subject matter. At the same time I try to capture and translate the excitement and emotion aroused in me by the impact with the original idea.

That is exactly what I trying to do– trying to capture the excitement and emotion aroused in me— each day in the studio. I think I often use those very words when talking about my work practices.

So, these common bonds allow me me to see Avery’s work in a better light. I find myself liking the consistency of his work, how he confidently used his native voice to express himself.

Respect is now there.

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