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Exhibition Review- Lee Krasner: Living Colour at the Barbican Art Gallery from 30 May to 1 September 2019

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Barbican Art Gallery presents the first retrospective in Europe for over 50 years of American artist Lee Krasner (1908 – 1984). The exhibition entitled Lee Krasner: Living Colour features nearly 100 works, many are on show in the UK for the first time and covers her 50-year artistic career.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Krasner is considered one of the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism, however her importance as an artist has been eclipsed by interest in her marriage to Jackson Pollock. Krasner was born in Brooklyn in 1908 and studied art in New York, some of her early self portraits and life drawings are featured in the exhibition.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The opening of the Museum of Modern Art in 1929 had a considerable influence on her art especially the work of Picasso and Matisse. In 1937, Krasner joined the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, where she made friends with Ray Eames, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The section in the exhibition called War Service Windows illustrates Krasner’s work for the War Service Project where she supervised fellow artist Jackson Pollock.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

In 1945, Krasner married Jackson Pollock and they moved to Springs, Long Island, Krasner began to work on her Little Images series which features Mosaic Table.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

In the summer of 1956, Krasner painted a series of paintings that were unlike anything she had painted before. The paintings under the title of Prophecy features contorted body forms and may have reflected Pollock’s problems with alcoholism. Pollock was to die in a car crash in August 1956 and Krasner became a widow at 47.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Krasner took over Pollock’s studio and began to tackle larger scale paintings, the dark Night Journeys series indicates this was a difficult time with Krasner also losing her mother.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

In the early 1960s, the dark period of Night Journeys gave way the exuberant colour of the Primary Series. Inspired by her artistic hero Matisse, Krasner produced large dramatic paintings full of energy and life.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This style of painting was overtaken in the 1970s by a move to more hard abstract forms with a colourful but more subdued palette.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

A fascinating filmed interview in the exhibition gives some insight into the life of Lee Krasner and portrays her strength as a person and an artist. She often acknowledged that the lack of attention to her work had often been a blessing because she could have freedom to follow any particular direction that interested her.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This intriguing exhibition provides some of the attention that her work deserves in Europe. Although Abstract Expressionism often goes in and out of fashion, this exhibition illustrates the wide range of Krasner’s work over a 50 year period.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets , visit the Barbican website here

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Exhibition Review : Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy – 24th September 2016 to 2nd January 2017

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The Royal Academy of Arts presents the first major exhibition of Abstract Expressionism to be held in the UK in almost sixty years . The exhibition features over 150 paintings, sculptures and photographs from public and private collections across the world and includes works  by acclaimed American artists including Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Phillip Guston, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Aaron Siskind, David Smith and Clyfford Still.

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In 1946, critic Robert Coates coined the term  ‘Abstract  Expressionism’  to describe a new  movement in American art.  The artists who were considered part of this movement did not follow a particular school of painting but were generally Americans living through the politically turbulent times of the 1940s,50s and 60s.

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Arshile Gorky was considered one of the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism by the way that he was able to create a synthesis between various trends such as Cubism and Surrealism.

Three of the first seven rooms of the exhibition are given over to the three most famous names of the movement. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko all bought their own originality to creating works that began to challenge some of the traditional views of painting.

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Jackson Pollock developed a process  of painting that involved a canvas being laid onto the ground and paint being dropped onto the canvas to create intricate webs of paint that built up into a complex tangle of paint and colour.  Pollock’s monumental  Mural (1943) and Blue Poles ( 1952) are shown in the same gallery for the first time in the exhibition.

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Willem de Kooning’s  work often turns its back on pure abstract by alternating between abstraction and figurative. Like many artists, he was inspired by the female form and many of his works such as Woman II ( 1952) have an erotic aspect.

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Mark Rothko maintained many of his paintings were ‘facades’ and the way that the artist created a painting of seemingly simple blocks of colour would suggest they could be taken merely on their ‘face value’. However they create a number of complex responses from the viewer who is often drawn into the picture.

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Many of the other rooms in the exhibition explore some of the many responses of artists to their surroundings in post war America. Gesture as Colour, The Violent Mark and  Darkness Visible  illustrate how some artists responded to the often violent times and urban life.

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Works by Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt and Clyfford Still are featured in the later rooms with sculptures by David Smith being used in many rooms and outside in the courtyard.

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Whilst Abstract Expressionism is rooted in post war America, it has since garnered universal appeal with some of the best known artists achieving ‘iconic’ status. This exhibition brings together works that illustrate that a diverse group of artists created a particular response to the troubled times they lived in.  Since the growth of interest in Abstract Expressionism, it had tended to divide opinion and is often criticised for being too simplistic. Others admire the often monumental scale of the works and their spontaneity and energy.

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This exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to make their own minds up with one of the largest shows of Abstract Expressionism works ever seen in the UK.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Opening Times

10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm)

Fridays and Saturdays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm)

Admission

£17 full price (£15 without Gift Aid donation); concessions available;

Children under 16 and Friends of the RA go free.

For more information and book tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here