Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kline, Franz

oil on canvas
204.14 x 242.57 cm (80 3/8 x 95 1/2 in.)
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

'Named after a city in northern Italy, Turin evokes both architectural structures such as bridges and girders and the surging energy of the metropolis.'

"People sometimes think I take a white canvas and paint a black sign on it, but this is not true. I paint the white as well as the black, and the white is just as important." (Kline)

Franz Jozef Kline (1910 - 1962) was an American painter mainly associated with the abstract expressionist movement centered around New York in the 1940s and 1950s. His first academic training was at Boston University from 1931 to 1935 and in London at the Heatherley School of Art from 1937 to 1938 as an illustrator and draughtsman.

As with Jackson Pollock and other Abstract Expressionists, he was labeled an "action painter" because of his seemingly spontaneous and intense style, focusing less, or not at all, on figures or imagery, but on the actual brush strokes and use of canvas. Kline's best known abstract expressionist paintings are in black and white. His paintings are deceptively subtle. While generally his paintings have a dynamic, spontaneous and dramatic impact, he often closely referred to his compositional drawings. He carefully rendered many of his most complex pictures from studies. There seem to be references to Japanese calligraphy in Kline's black and white paintings, although he always denied that connection. Bridges, tunnels, buildings, engines, railroads and other architectural and industrial icons are often suggested as imagery informing Kline's work.

Kline's most recognizable method and style derives from a suggestion made to him by his friend Willem De Kooning. In 1948, Kooning suggested to an artistically frustrated Kline to bring in a sketch and project it with a Bell Opticon opaque projector he had at his studio. Kline described the projection as such: "A four by five inch black drawing of a rocking chair...loomed in gigantic black strokes which eradicated any image, the strokes expanding as entities in themselves, unrelated to any entity but that of their own existence." Kline created paintings in the style of what he saw that day throughout his life. His influence on the second generation of abstract action painters was substantial, and his works comprise some of the most imposing achievements of Abstract Expressionism.