George Morrison (at mia)
Thanks, Mark, for putting me onto mia's exhibition "Between Two Worlds" featuring the "mid-century modernism" of "Minneasota favorite" George Morrison (1919-2000). His timing was impeccable, to arrive in NYC in 1943, age 24, along with European artists fleeing WWII, just as Abstract Expressionism was taking off and New York replaced Paris as the "art capital of the (Eurocentric) world" .. and he left in 1970 when the movement was exhausted and overwhelmed by Pop and Conceptualism and Minimalism and Performance etc the go-go 60s. (I don't doubt that he experienced discrimination, as the article says, but non-Indian Abstractionists like his compatriot Philip Guston also ran out the string around this time and went back to figurative painting.)
Here's what caught my eye in the narrative about the artist:
“I have never tried to prove that I was an Indian through my art,” Morrison wrote. “Yet, there may remain deeply hidden some remote suggestion of the rock whence I was hewn, the preoccupation of the textural surface, the mystery of the structural and organic element, the enigma of the horizon, or the color of the wind.”
Wow. Yes, well, maybe there is a landscape, the essence of one, in that gorgeous picture that opens the on-line exhibit. That would set him apart distinctly from most of his fellow Abstractionists, who sought the spiritual in geometry and color.
It must be magnificant in person.. and at that scale! Wow! Would that other, contemporary artists be capable of such a sensitive and poetic statement? Nothing about the painting "looks Indian" I think. Looks much more like straight-ahead NY avant-guarde.
This was painted in 1960, 17 years into his NYC experience mixing with other Abstractionists-- and seeing everything they had to offer. Like all of them, he grew into a mature style recognizably influenced by others, and made it his own. Like the action painters (Pollack, Kline, deKooning-- he knew/exhibited with the latter two), he painted at large scale, in bold, vigorous strokes, using his body as well as his hand. Like the color field contingent (Rothko, Newman), he covered the entire surface of the canvas.
This retrospective, "the first in decades"!, certainly succeeds in showcasing his two worlds, but it also might well elevate his reputation by juxtaposing his NY abstract paintings with those of his avant-guarde peers.,
~!~!~! Further researh and correspondence with Mark on Morrison's late career after he returned home to Minneasota in 1970. Stopped painting abstractly, started doing abstract landscapes (Lake Superior) and working in wood, .. especially discussed a fine abstract (geometric, non-totemic) "totem pole" (on view at MIA). His bio makes for a fertile narrative.
David Hockney also went home.. to England.. after the California Pop period for which he is best known. And he also changed style radically-- turned to beautiful straight-up plein aire landscapes of the English countryside.. huge scale, with Fauve flair, .. and then to a series of 82 3 x 4' painterly portraits of friends and family.. A. and I just saw the documentary of these two aspects of his late work. Excellent! Now nearly 80, he is painting with his IPAD-- I'm going to try it.. seems a lot less bother, and might as well go directly to digital photo work, as likely the only documentation of whatever I do.