LONDON.- White Cube
announced Al Held (1928−2005) as the first artist estate to join the gallery. Led by John Good, Director of Artists Estates, White Cube will commence global representation of the Al Held Foundation in January 2019.
A pioneer of hard-edged abstraction, Al Held created works of great complexity during his 50-year career. Born in Brooklyn in 1928, he attended the Art Students League of New York and then the Académie de la Grand Chaumière in Paris (1951−3). When he returned to New York in 1953, Abstract Expressionism was dominant, and he took part in several of its key exhibitions such as American Abstract Expressionists and Imagists at the Guggenheim Museum, New York (1961); Geometric Abstraction in America at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1962); and Post Painterly Abstraction, curated by Clement Greenberg, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1964).
Held's early pigment paintings, begun in the 1950s, employed raw pigment and thick impasto, featuring colourful, geometric shapes overlaid to create a sense of jostling internal energy. He then switched to acrylic paint, achieving a harder-edged clarity. The 'Alphabet Series' from the early to mid-1960s, for example, feature monumental graphic letter forms. In works such as The Big A (1962) or The Big N (1965), flattened, two-dimensional contours appear to be barely contained within the canvas limits.
Held abandoned colour from 1967 onwards, painting exclusively in black and white, and only returned to it during the late 1970s, a period when he also used tape to create sharp-edged lines and shapes.
Drawn to creating work on a large scale (he admired the murals of Mexican socialist realist David Alfaro Siqueiros), he completed several public commissions in New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia. Alongside his own painting, Held also taught on the graduate program at Yale University School of Art from 1963 until 1980.
White Cube will present its first show dedicated to Held at its Hong Kong gallery in late 2019, followed by an exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey in 2020.
John Good, White Cube Director of Artists Estates said: Al Held was recognised in the 1950s as a formidable talent in the downtown New York art scene. Looking at his abstract paintings today, you can see that he was way ahead of his time, and as such, his work speaks to a number of contemporary practitioners of abstraction. We look forward to sharing Helds work with a wider international audience and bolstering the understanding of his probing intellect. The Al Held Foundation will serve as the cornerstone of our efforts to work with the estates of artists.
Daniel Belasco, Executive Director of the Al Held Foundation said: The Al Held Foundation is delighted to become the first artist foundation to join White Cube. Al Held was a leading proponent of expanding the language of modernist abstraction. This visionary gallerys record of supporting artists through a dynamic mix of stunning exhibitions, scholarly publications, and compelling public programmes aligns with both the pictorial ambition of Helds art and the educational mission of the Foundation. We look forward to joining White Cubes international roster of artists.
Al Held was born in Brooklyn in 1928 and died in Todi, Italy in 2005. He exhibited extensively throughout his career including solo exhibitions at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1966); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC (1968); ICA, Philadelphia (1968); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (1969); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1974); and ICA, Boston (1978), among other museums. He produced major public artworks in prominent cities around USA including Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York and Orlando. Held's work features in many museums and public collections including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Neunationalgalerie, Berlin and Kunstmuseum, Basel.