As the Lang’s collection grew to include major examples by American Abstract Expressionists including Rothko, de Kooning, Still and Kline they began to search for earlier, developmental works by these same artists in order to illuminate their artistic evolution. Within the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, Kline quickly established an individual idiom marked by dominant strokes executed with arresting energy and spontaneity. However, in discovering his true artistic style he experienced an on-and-off flirtation with abstraction during the forties before his eventual embrace of complete abstraction around 1950 as seen in these five examples. The Lang’s refined eye and depth of collecting presents a carefully curated mini-retrospective spanning from 1945 to 1959, which traces Kline’s exploration of formal figure to the purest essence of line and form.
It is rare feat for an artist to master multiple genres of painting and even rarer for a collection to include examples from each pivotal development. Beginning with Untitled from 1945, Kline captures an everyday scene from one of his walks through the New York City streets where a trio of pigeons gathers and are rooted in space and time through the segmented forms and dense black line which are seen throughout his oeuvre. Kline’s Untitled from 1949 captures a shift in the artist’s energetic speed of gesture as he tests the balance between line and the definitions of spatial relationships. Seemingly small in scale but ever important for Kline’s development, Untitled from 1950 incorporates telephone book paper and boldly painted gesture. Kline would later transpose this work, line for line, into a much larger oil painting held today in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Kline’s traditional black and white abstraction was oftentimes first explored in color on a smaller scale as realized in Untitled from 1951 and 1957. Untitled from 1951 encapsulates the same energy as the 1949 work while paving the way for the densely colored frenzy of Untitled from 1957. Kline’s vigorously executed strokes of color are anchored in the structure of the white grid creating a tension between color and form marking a tangible product of the boost of artistic confidence the artist experienced just one year after signing with famed gallerist Sidney Janis.
One of the most iconic Abstract Expressionists, Franz Kline has proven himself to be one of the most idiosyncratic artists of the 20th Century. No other artist has commanded the use of monochromatic boldness and power of color, tension of line and space quite like Kline, all while pursing the extremes of his artistic vision in just fifty-one short years. The Lang’s collection of works by Kline capture the essence of Kline’s artistic output in a way that only true visionary collectors are able to discern.
"I don't think about adding color. I merely want to feel free to paint in color, or in black and white. I painted originally in color and finally arrived at black and white by painting the color out. Then I started only with color, white and no black—then color and black and white. I'm not necessarily after the same thing with these different combinations, for, though some people say that black and white is color, for me color is different."
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