Adolph Gottlieb

Life Dates:
1903 – 1974
Artist Biography:
Adolph Gottlieb was a painter and a sculptor who was considered an American abstract expressionist painter. He traveled to France and Germany for a year after which he became a teacher in addition to painting. He was highly inspired by indigenous populations, specifically figures and symbols in their culture. A native of New York City, Gottlieb was exhibited regularly with "The Ten," a New York group of avant-garde painters. In 1937 he moved to a small community outside Tucson, Arizona with his wife Esther. In Arizona, his subject matter changed as he became concerned with the natural forms that would continue to mark all of his subsequent work. A feeling of isolation prompted his return to New York in 1939; and from there he went to Gloucester where he began to paint beach still-lives in three-dimensional boxes set against deeply receding spaces. He soon abandoned this form, but these experiments led to his pictographs of the forties-stylized motifs based on human and natural forms isolated in compartments. For Gottlieb the pictographs were his adaptation of Surrealist automatism-the result of free association. Later, he would reduce these pictographs to an increasingly basic structure: the grid. The next step occurred in a painting divided into two parts: in the lower section he placed the interwoven lines of a grid; on top of this he drew a horizon line above which floated five areas of color in varying geometric shapes. This was the first of a series to be known as "Imaginary Landscapes". Over the years, Gottlieb's canvases became increasingly monumental in size while the images grew simpler. In 1957 the rigid format of the Landscapes dissolved into the fluid space of the "Bursts", in which two images are contrasted; a peaceful sun-like disc above, and an angry ball of undifferentiated matter below. As Gottlieb's structures became simpler he became increasingly concerned with the intensity, nuance and feeling inherent in the juxtaposition of color.

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