Index: Abstraction


The Sherbet Ahh…

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John Hoyland is among England’s premier abstract painters. These silkscreens, done in the early 70’s, are an exception to Hoyland’s generally more muscular, scratchy, smeary color field paintings. What perfect constructions! They are worn and faded in the best sense, the pale color of an kitchen soaked in ample sunlight for half a generation. The colors themselves emit a pastelly, sherberty, creamy richness. Together this exquisite balance reminds me of one of the essential characteristics of old, beautiful things – vivid and weathered in equal measure. (Great article on Hoyland here.)

Harry Callahan

When I saw these photographs by Harry Callahan reproduced in a magazine, I took them to be photo-realist paintings. It’s the compositions – they’re so deliberate and graphic. What I love about the photo-realist painters that I love is the degree of framing and editing they employ. They hold reality in abstraction, and the intersection of the two is the source of a great deal of the aesthetic impact they deliver. It’s why I was so gobsmacked to find that these images were caught in camera.

Callahan was an engineer with Chrysler Motors in the 40’s, where he joined a camera club. A visit by Ansel Adams to the club transformed his passion for photography from a hobby into an artistic calling – a search for the intensified image. As he put it – “The difference between the casual impression and the intensified image is about as great as that separating the average business letter from a poem” – which gets at the essence of his images perfectly. Half a decade later he was hired by Bauhaus legend Liszl Moholy-Nagy to teach photography at the Institute of Design in Chicago. He went on to create the photography program at the RISD. More on Callahan here.