Artist, writer, and educator Josef Albers worked with glass, photography, printmaking, and other modes of expression, but he was most well-known for his role in developing color theory in the twentieth century. Albers’ iconic series, Homage to the Square, featured simple, flat colored squares concentrically placed on the canvas. “Simultaneous contrast is not just a curious optical phenomenon—it is the very heart of painting.” Albers said. His Interaction of Color (1963) remains one of the most innovative texts on color theory and contemporary art.
Josef Albers, Study for Homage to the Square: Long Ago, Oil on Masonite, 24 × 24in. (61 × 61cm), Courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany, Connecticut. © 2023 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art
Josef Albers, Study for Homage to the Square, Oil on Masonite, 24 × 24in. (61 × 61cm), Courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany, Connecticut. © 2023 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art
– Mark Bradford –
Mark Bradford is renowned for his large-scale, intricately layered paintings, meticulously crafted from paper salvaged c from urban landscapes, particularly in his native South Los Angeles. While Bradford’s paintings are predominantly abstract, his materials—such as maps, advertisements, and billboards—embody the histories that have shaped communities of color, such as the AIDS crisis, systemic displacement, and civil unrest. To create his stratified compositions, Bradford strategically excavates sections of canvas in an intricate and time-consuming process of shredding, gouging, wetting, and sanding that transforms and expands the boundaries of traditional painting.
Bradford earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Valencia. In 2015, Bradford founded Art + Practice, a nonprofit organization that oversees public programs and exhibitions while also providing support for transition-age youths in foster care in Los Angeles. He has exhibited extensively and received numerous awards and honors, including his appointment to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019 and a MacArthur Fellowship Award in 2009.
Mark Bradford, Lazy Parades, Mixed media on canvas, 53 × 35in. (134.6 × 88.9cm), Courtesy of the artist, Los Angeles, California
– Cecily Brown –
Cecily Brown, a British-born artist, paints at the intersection of figuration and abstraction, infusing her canvases with intimations of body parts and bold, gestural brushstrokes inspired by abstract expressionism.iv While her early works were overtly representational and often highly eroticized, her recent works have evolved towards more enigmatic scenes. Of this style she has cultivated, Brown states, “One of the main things I would like my work to do is to reveal itself slowly, continuously, and for you to never feel that you’re really finished looking at something.”
Brown graduated from Slade School of Fine Art, London, the United Kingdom, before moving to New York, where she currently lives and works. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. Her paintings are in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; and Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Massachusetts.
Cecily Brown, The garden of forgetfulness, Oil on linen, 31 × 43in. (78.7 × 109.2cm), Courtesy of the artist, New York, New York
George Condo, Silver Mass, Metallic paint, acrylic, charcoal, and pastel on linen, 80 × 76in. (203.2 × 193cm), Courtesy of the artist, Concord, New Hampshire. © 2022 George Condo / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Considered one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, Willem de Kooning was a prominent abstract expressionist painter best known for his longstanding exploration of the fragmented female form, depicted with vigorous and dynamic brushwork. Throughout the course of his seven-decade career, he displayed remarkable versatility, transitioning between various figurative and abstract styles while experimenting.￼In the 1980s, de Kooning developed a highly pared-down style characterized by flat, calligraphic-like brushstrokes set against subtly toned, lightly colored backgrounds that resulted in markedly distilled compositions, as illustrated in these two untitled works.
Willem de Kooning,
Willem de Kooning, Untitled XXXVII, Oil on canvas, unframed 80 × 70in. (203.2 × 177.8cm); framed 81 × 71in. (205.7 × 180.3cm), approximately, Courtesy of The Willem de Kooning Foundation, New York, New York. © 2022 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Helen Frankenthaler, Ocean Drive West #2, Acrylic on canvas, 69 3/4 × 29in. (177.2 × 73.7cm), Courtesy of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, New York, New York © 2022 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Helen Frankenthaler was a pioneering female artist in the male-dominated sphere of mid-twentieth-century abstract painting. She is best known for her “soak-stain” process, which entailed pouring thinned paint onto an unprimed canvas to create fields of translucent color. Often, these paintings referenced figuration and landscape, expanding the strict nonfigurative boundaries of abstract expressionism.x In addition to her paintings, Frankenthaler made ceramics and steel sculptures and maintained an experimental printmaking practice.
Born in New York, Frankenthaler studied at Bennington College, Vermont, and later exhibited alongside abstract expressionists in New York. During her lifetime, she was honored with multiple retrospectives and awards, including the National Medal of Arts in 2001. Frankenthaler’s work figures in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Helen Frankenthaler, Saturday’s Colors, Acrylic on paper, unframed 60 × 95 3/4in. (152.4 × 243.2cm);; framed 64 7/8 × 100 5/8 × 2 3/16in. (164.8 × 255.6 × 5.5cm), Courtesy of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, New York, New York © 2022 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hans Hofmann, celebrated alongside Josef Albers, is considered one of the most influential teachers of modern art and abstraction of the postwar era in the United States. One of his most renowned theories, “push-pull,” explores how forms can appear to advance and recede in dynamic equilibrium through perceptual effects of color and shape. A prolific painter himself, Hofmann utilized his profound understanding of artistic principles to experiment with bold color combinations and formal technical contrasts.
Born in Weibenburg, Germany, and raised in Munich, Hofmann spent a decade studying in Paris before World War I, where he became interested in Cubism and Fauvism. After moving to the United States in 1932, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Art Students League, New York. Later, he established his own school with locations in Manhattan and Provincetown, Massachusetts. His work is in the collections of many institutions including The Art Institute of Chicago; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Tate Modern, London, the United Kingdom; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Hans Hofmann, Penombres du Soir, Oil on canvas, Framed: 49 x 61 x 1 3/4 in. (124.5 x 154.9 x 4.4 cm), Renate, Hans & Maria Hofmann Trust, courtesy of Ameringer McEnery Yohe, New York
– Hans Hofmann –
Ellsworth Kelly is best known for his abstract paintings and sculptures characterized by deeply saturated colors and drastically simplified forms. His work marked a significant departure from the gestural, surface-oriented paintings of abstract expressionism, paving a path for a more diverse, expansive canon of nonfigural art in the United States. “I’m interested in the space between the viewer and the surface of the painting—the forms and the way they work in their surroundings. I’m interested in how they react to a room,”xiv he said. Despite being highly distilled, Kelly’s forms are rooted in his observations of nature, from the curve of a leaf to the shadow cast on the ground.
Kelly began exploring abstraction while stationed in France after World War II. He previously studied figurative drawing and painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. He held his first solo exhibition at Galerie Arnaud in Paris. Throughout his seven-decade career, Kelly experimented with different forms of abstraction, such as monochromatic paintings and shaped canvases, often blurring the distinction between painting and sculpture, as illustrated in Blue Curve. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Arts. Kelly’s work can be found in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Metropolitan Museum, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Ellsworth Kelly, Blue Curve, Oil on canvas, 80 × 59 3/4in. (203.2 × 151.8cm), Courtesy of Jack Shear and Matthew Marks Gallery
Sean Scully has spent almost five decades making abstract paintings that explore color, texture, and light. His expansive canvases depict simple geometric shapes organized into various configurations. Evoking landscapes and architecture, these vivid compositions are often informed by personal experiences, such as the artist’s travels. In their use of precise, grid-like structures, Scully’s works offer a sense of balance and compression; yet the overall image is fleeting and hazy, rather than fixed, owing to the artist’s vibrant brushstrokes, which blur the boundaries between forms.
Scully was born in Dublin, Ireland, and grew up in London. He began painting in the late 1960s and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Newcastle University, Tyne, the United Kingdom. He moved to New York in 1975. His work is in the permanent collections of numerous institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain.
Sean Scully, Landline Blue Wind, Oil on aluminum, 85 × 75in. (215.9 × 190.5cm), Courtesy of the artist, Tappan, New York
Sean Scully, Landline Day, Oil on aluminum, 85 × 75in. (215.9 × 190.5cm), Courtesy of the artist, Tappan, New York
– Sean Scully –