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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Beauford at MoMA

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City holds two works by Beauford.

One is a portrait of Howard Swanson, a classical music composer who lived in Paris from 1952 to 1966.

This other is Composition 16, the magnificent Abstract Expressionist painting that stopped my heart when I saw an image of it online several years ago.

Composition 16
(1954-1956) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Artist Glenn Ligon wrote the following about the painting for the 2019 publication Among Others: Blackness at MoMA:

“Have been working and living with the many people who make up Beauford,” Beauford Delaney wrote to his great friend James Baldwin in September 1954, “and trying to merge them into some sense of composition and a workable form of painting.” Composition 16, a modestly sized work on canvas composed of swirling, wormlike strokes of yellow, red, orange, ocher, pale green, and blue paint, some squeezed directly from the tube, is a vivid example of Delaney’s quest to unite disparate aspects of his interior life and artistic practice while keeping a promise to continue “doing all that is possible with paint.” With its suggestion of ground, sun, sky, and allover painting technique, Composition 16 fuses landscape and abstraction, depicting light and color as ecstatic matter. The color yellow, scumbled liberally over the surface of the painting as a unifying element and predominating in many of Delaney’s abstract and figurative works from the period, seems to have held a particular fascination for the artist.

Composition 16 is currently on display at MoMA as part of an on-going, 10-work exhibition entitled Action Painting II. It is installed in Room 405 on the fourth floor in the David Geffen Galleries.

All the works included in this show are part of MoMA's collection. They have been brought together as an exploration of the innovation expressed by selected Abstract Expressionist artists through experimentation with "a variety of materials and techniques." The companion exhibition, Action Painting I, is also on display on the fourth floor (Room 403).

From MoMA's Website:

"Art critic Harold Rosenberg coined the term 'action painting' in 1952 to describe the work of artists who painted using bold gestures that engaged more of the body than traditional easel painting. Often the viewer can see broad brushstrokes, drips, splashes, or other evidence of the physical action that took place upon the canvas."

Click HERE to see a photo of Composition 16 hung next to Helen Frankenthaler's Jacob's Ladder.

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