A Chicago gallery focuses on Abstract Expressionists. Franz Kline and Jack Roth at McCormick Gallery.
Half-way down the long halls of Pier 92 at The Armory Show Modern you come across a vast red painting that envelops you and makes you stop and start a conversation. Its two vertical gestural bands betray its Abstract Expressionist roots and hint at the possible author. Jack Roth (1927 – 2004) created Safety Match, in 1964 during his transition from a more gestural abstract period towards color fielding – a process of staining unprimed canvas with pigment and allowing it to soak, creating pools of colors.
As Thomas McCormick, Owner of the Chicago-based McCormick Gallery explained, the painting is part of the Jack Roth estate the gallery now owns and represents. Roth was a seminal figure in Abstract Expressionism studying first in California under Mark Rothko and then Clyfford Still – both giants of post-war abstract painting. Roth then moved to Duke University, a time he referred to as his “southern” period, to pursue a post doctoral degree in Mathematics. This dual occupation led Roth to express that he was looking for “… a mathematical explanation of [abstract] art, an explanation which I hope will clarify the ‘subject of the artist … The subject of art is reality and the act of painting is a search for reality; a search for understanding.”
While knowledge of Abstract Expressionism encourages the informed mind to push away thoughts of (possible) figurative images on both sides of the canvas, it is impossible to ignore them. There are faces calling out to the viewer, carefully concealed traces of figurative elements.
Tom McCormick: One of the paintings we are showing is by man named Jack Roth. He was a New York based painter, born in 1927 and died in 2004. It’s called Safety Match, it’s painted in 1964. He studied on the West Coast after the war, he was in San Francisco where he worked with Marc Rothko and Clyfford Still, and then in the early 50’s he migrated to New York City, which was kind of where everything was happening, and he was a part of Abstract Expressionist movement here in New York throughout the 50’s.
He painted very gestural paintings in the 50’s and then in the early 60’s he began to move more to this kind of color field and you can see in this paintings there are still vestiges of gestural brush work. So, this is in a way almost like transitional painting – a bridge painting between his very gestural 50’s Abstract Expressionist work and his later color field work, which he moved into in the 70’s and 80’s. Custom-made for a New York City apartment, I know everyone at this show has a wall where they can accommodate this painting.
So here we have a fairly early 1952 Franz Kline painting. Of course, Kline was one of the more important members of Abstract Expressionist movement here in New York. This painting is spectacular, it’s small but really dynamite work, you can see the thick brush work, it has quite a bit of collage elements, you can see there is a New York Times newspaper here.
It kind of relates to his earlier work when he was doing these steel and coal paintings, where he painted these primitive sort of trains and coal mines. You can almost see as a vestige of train trestle and this is kind of a strange like a coal car or something and you can see that he’s transitioning into his more kind of iconic black and white works.
This video interview and article © galleryIntell. Images courtesy of the McCormick Gallery, Chicago.