Saturday, June 30, 2012

Louis, Morris

Beta Zeta
Acrylic on canvas
255 x 439 cm
State Museums of Berlin

Morris Louis (1912 - 1962), original name Morris Bernstein, was an American painter Living in Washington, DC. Louis, along with other Washington painters formed an art movement that is known today as the Washington Color School. During the 1950s he became one of the earliest exponents of Color Field painting who is notable for his distinctly personal use of color, often in brilliant bands or stripes.

He studied painting at the Maryland Institute, Baltimore, and from 1937 to 1940 he worked as an easel painter in the Works Projects Administration (WPA) Federal Art program. His early work was Cubistic, but his style changed abruptly in 1952 following his exposure to the Abstract Expressionist paintings of Jackson Pollock.
Louis began his experiments with this technique by carefully pouring paint. He used thin washes of acrylic paint to create translucent curtains of color on the canvas, sometimes in parallel rows, sometimes overlapping so that the effect is of an ink wash or a dye. The precedent is Jackson Pollock's poured works of the late 1940's. But in Pollock, the poured line and planes are textured and material and stay on top of the canvas, whereas in a Louis, the area of color fuses with the flat canvas. In a Louis painting, there is no reference to nature, to architecture or to a human presence. They are non-referential abstract works, fundamentally expressive and extremely decorative.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1962 and soon after, died at his home in Washington, D.C., on September 7, 1962. The cause of his illness was attributed to prolonged exposure to paint vapors.