NEW YORK, NY.-
Painter, draughtsman, and National Academician Charles Cajori died on December 1st. Charles, or simply Cajori, as he was known to his friends, was born in Palo Alto, California in 1921 and studied at the Colorado Springs Art Center and the Cleveland Art School before continuing his studies in New York at Columbia University in the late 1940s. Cajori was one of the founding members of the seminal Tanager Gallery, one of the first cooperative galleries in New York City. He became an important part of the downtown scene in New York in the 1950s, centered around 10th Street, when Abstract Expressionism was the dominant mode of the day. He differed from most of his peers at that time, however, and took a radical departure from complete abstraction to work from the figure. He employed the vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism in the creation of his work to deconstruct the figure and rearrange it through spatial experimentation. Cajori began exhibiting his work in the 1950s and had dozens of solo exhibitions over the next 50+ years. He was the recipient of over a dozen prestigious awards including a Fulbright grant, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, two Childe Hassam Purchase Prizes from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Ranger Fund Purchase Prize from the National Academy, and many more.
Cajori was elected as an Associate National Academician in 1982 and full National Academician in 1987. He was a regular exhibitor in the Academys Annual exhibition and until fairly recently he attended the general membership meetings with some regularity. He gave an untitled painting from the mid-1980s as his Associates diploma presentation and the fabulous Shifting Down as his Academicians diploma presentation. It is a painting that has been shown several times over the last few years and illustrates beautifully the artists approach to rendering the figure. Over the course of his long career Cajori held numerous teaching positions including those at Queens College, Cooper Union, and as a founding faculty member at the New York Studio School. Cajori was one of the last surviving members from the generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. He was a living archive and in 2010 he was interview by Sara Fishko for WNYC, which you may listen to here
As many of you know, Cajori is survived by his wife of more than forty years and also a National Academician and Board of Governors member, Barbara Grossman. Cajori was an indefatigable spirit and truly one of the giant figures in post-war American painting. His departure is a tremendous loss to the entire art community.