Lorser Feitelson, West Coast Hard-Edge Abstraction, Pt4


Lorser Feitelson, along with his wife Helen Lundeberg, were pioneers of what was to become known as Hard-Edge abstraction in the late 1940s into the 50’s.  Lorser, along with his peers and fellow artists, Karl BenjaminFrederick Hammersley and John McLaughlin were featured in the landmark exhibition, Four Abstract Classicists at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1959.  Jules Langsner, critic, psychiatrist and organizer of the exhibition coined the term “hard-edge” in his essay for the exhibition’s catalogue:

“Abstract Classicist painting is hard-edged painting. Forms are finite, flat, rimmed by a hard clean edge. These forms are not intended to evoke in the spectator any recollections of specific shapes he may have encountered in some other connection. They are autonomous shapes, sufficient unto themselves as shapes.”

The hard-edge movement was centered around these southern california artists, although works similar in character were being created elsewhere at roughly the same time.  Contemporary art writer Dave Hickey christened Feitelson and the other hard-edge artists as The Los Angeles School.

“The New York School painters would create their idiom by internalizing abstraction, psychologizing it in the manner of Freud and Jung. The California painters take the opposite route by radically externalizing the surrealism of experience in the West. Their presumption, that surreality, visual anxiety and splendor have their roots in the physical and social world rather than the autonomous self, set art on the West Coast free from the rigor of concept and the regime of the personal that dominated American art in that moment. In the broader sense, this externalized vision granted artists the privilege of their sanity in a manic, narcissistic cultural moment and, in doing so, created the conditions out of which the language of art in Southern California art would evolve in the late twentieth century.”–Dave Hickey, exhibition notes, Otis College of Art & Design, 2004

Feitelson was enamored with the works of Matisse, Duchamp and the Italian Futurists at a very early age  At age 18, he set up a painting studio or himself in New York’s Greenwich Village. But the modernist allure of Europe beckoned Feitelson:

“Like all serious Modernist painters of the time, Feitelson wanted to continue his study/practice in Europe. He made his first journey to Paris in 1919 and enrolled as an independent student in life drawing at the Académie Colorossi.[3] While in Paris, he also made numerous trips to Corsica, Italy, and sketches from his time there formed the basis for later works featuring peasants as subjects. After numerous trips to Europe, and before returning home to the States for good in 1927, Feitelson exhibited at Paris’ famous Salon d’Automne.” –wikipedia

Feitelson relocated to Los Angeles in 1927 and began to paint in a Post Surrealist style, which continued for roughly the next decade. Feitelson had discovered what he termed “Magical Forms” which he began working with in his paintings.  Through his use of these forms as his subject matter he began to work in an increasingly abstract vein.

“These evolved into a more formalized visual language in the ‘Magical Space Forms’ series of the 1950s and 1960s and culminated in the elegant figurative minimalism of the ‘Ribbon’ paintings in the 1970s; “pure gesture that engages the viewer with the intimacy of an embrace.” –Frances Colpitt, Lorser Feitelson – The Late Paintings, catalogue essay, Louis Stern Fine Arts, 2009

Works by Lorser Feitelson are included in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among numerous other public and private collections.

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