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Abstract-Expressionist painter Adolph Gottlieb's mature work on view at The Pace Gallery
Adolph Gottlieb, Foursquare, 1964. Oil on canvas, 6' 6" x 11' (198.1 cm x 335.3 cm)© Estate of Adolph and Esther Gottlieb / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo by: G. R. Christmas / Courtesy The Pace Gallery.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Pace Gallery is presenting Adolph Gottlieb: GRAVITY, SUSPENSION, MOTION, an exhibition of the Abstract-Expressionist painter’s mature work featuring twelve large-scale paintings made between 1954 and 1972. The paintings reveal the extraordinary range of Gottlieb’s themes and motifs, showcasing a diversity that he first explored in the 50s and continued to modify and deepen through his late work. The exhibition includes examples from the primary series of Gottlieb’s mature work—Labyrinths, Bursts, and Imaginary Landscapes—highlighting the dialogue between the three bodies of work as he made subtle but significant variations to a few familiar formats over three decades. Together, the paintings convey the persistent inventiveness that spanned Gottlieb’s five-decade career.

Adolph Gottlieb: GRAVITY, SUSPENSION, MOTION is on view at 534 West 25th Street, New York, through April 28. The exhibition is accompanied by an exhibition catalogue with a new version of scholar Pepe Karmel’s essay “Adolph Gottlieb: Artist and Cosmos,” which first appeared in the catalogue for the 2010 retrospective of Gottlieb’s work at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. This exhibition marks the first one-person show of Gottlieb’s work in Chelsea and the fourth at Pace since the gallery began its representation of the estate in 2002.

As Martin Friedman, then Director of the Walker Art Center, wrote of the artist in 1963, Gottlieb had “arrived at a dispassionate world view, dispassionate because through form and color he envisages a universe in which human emotions are fused with rudimentary physical principles—gravity, suspension, motion.” Gottlieb’s work from age fifty onward represents the resurgence of his career, in which he created a new fusion of abstract composition and gestural brushstroke that was both in the vanguard and singularly his, resulting in a vision that was simultaneously microcosmic and macrocosmic. He remained productive until his death in 1974 and in the decade prior discovered new meanings in his personal vocabulary of shapes, endlessly exploring the possibilities of, as Clement Greenberg wrote in 1955, “[placing] a flat and irregular silhouette, that most difficult of all shapes to adjust in isolation to the rectangle, with a force and rightness no other living painter seems capable of.” By inverting formulas, eliminating elements, drawing on motifs from his early work, and incorporating ideas of color theory, Gottlieb produced new work that was consistently fresh and contemporary. After years of largely focusing on the all-over image, as Gottlieb progressed he embraced a focused composition and a larger scale, as in the mural-sized painting Unstill Life III (1954–56). In addition, Gottlieb questioned the primacy of gesture that is paradigmatic of earlier Abstract-Expressionist painting, to focus instead on the impact of the entire image. The results are a refined statement of relationships as exemplified in works like Aftermath (1959). In that way, his simplified work anticipated the impartial focus on relationships of size, shape, and color that defined Minimalism. Likewise, he revisited elements from his earlier works—such as the calligraphy from his Pictographs of the 1940s—placing them as an animating force into works such as Open and Closed (1968–70).

Gottlieb’s mature work also reflects the legacy of his early association and friendship with fellow painters Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. The three artists worked closely together in the 1930s and 40s, and as Karmel notes, all “[began] with the sublime melancholy of metaphysical painting, and [transformed] it into the sublime exaltation of the nineteenth-century Romantic landscape, expressed in the language of abstraction.” Elements of Gottlieb’s explorations from the late 40s, including an all-over composition and an allusion to cosmological elements, are evident in Labyrinth works like Black, White, Pink (1954) and his iconic Burst paintings, such as Pink and Blue (1971), respectively. Two of Gottlieb’s Pictograph paintings are currently featured in Mythology, an exhibition exploring the influence of myth on the origins of Abstract Expressionism, on view at The Pace Gallery’s location at 32 East 57th Street, New York, through April 14.

Adolph Gottlieb: GRAVITY, SUSPENSION, MOTION includes major paintings loaned from the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

In October the Akron Art Museum will present an exhibition of Gottlieb’s sculpture, which will subsequently travel to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, after previously travelling in Europe to the Musée d'art moderne et d'art contemporain, Nice, France; Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca, Spain; and the Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern, Germany. A number of Gottlieb’s works from the 1930s and 40s are currently featured in the exhibition American Vanguards at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York, curated by William Agee, Irving Sandler, and Karen Wilkin.

Adolph Gottlieb (b. 1903, New York City, d. 1974, New York City) worked his passage to Europe when he was seventeen, after studying briefly at The Art Students League. He spent six months in Paris visiting the Louvre every day and auditing classes at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. He also studied at Parsons School of Design and the Educational Alliance Art School. Gottlieb participated in his first group exhibition in 1929, and made his solo debut one year later. In 1935, Gottlieb became a founding member of “The Ten,” a group of artists devoted to expressionist and abstract painting. Eight years later, he would become a founding member of another group of abstract painters, “The New York Artist Painters,” that included Mark Rothko, John Graham, and George L. K. Morris. In 1943, Gottlieb co-authored and published a letter with Rothko in The New York Times, expressing what is now considered to be the first formal statement of the concerns of the Abstract Expressionist artists. In 1949, Gottlieb organized the protest of an exhibition jury at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that would lead him and twenty-seven of his colleagues, all pioneers in the Abstract Expressionist movement, to be called “the Irascibles.”

Adolph Gottlieb participated in hundreds of exhibitions and received numerous accolades in his lifetime. Among his many achievements, he received the Grand Prêmio at the VII Bienal de São Paulo (1963) and the American Academy of Achievement award (1965), he was appointed to The Art Commission for the City of New York (1967) and elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1971). In 1959, Gottlieb was invited to exhibit in Documenta II, Kassel, West Germany. In 1968, Gottlieb was honored with a retrospective exhibition organized by and shown simultaneously at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

The artist's work is in innumerable public collections worldwide, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas; Dallas Museum of Art; Detroit Institute of Arts; Museum of Ein Harod, Israel; The High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Israel Museum of Art, Jerusalem; IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez, Valencia, Spain; Jewish Museum, New York; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Miami Art Museum; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, Canada; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Nationalgalerie, Berlin; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; The Saint Louis Art Museum; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate, London; The Tel Aviv Museum, Israel; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

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