Abstract Expressionist painter, Richard Pousette-Dart was just a precocious young man when he created these paintings and works on paper (11 September-5 November). He was born in Minnesota and dropped out of Bard College after a year to become an artist. By the mid 1930s, he was ahead of his New York School peers (Rothko, Gottlieb, Pollock) and already looking for inspiration from that heady symbolic stew of “primitive” influences: African and Native American art; and Jungian and Freudian psychological theories. The resulting canvases and works on paper, created between 1935-42, show him confidently experimenting with pictorial methods picked up from Picasso, Klee and others. In some cases he focusses on iconic portraits, the “mythic heads” of the title, and in others creates tightly woven abstract compositions which vaguely refer to landscape. As John Yau points out in his catalogue essay, the highly symbolic portrait of his mother (“Untitled (Flora)”, right), attests to the influence of his friend, the painter John Graham, while presaging Graham’s own cross-eyed portraits of the 1950s. Many of these works have not been shown since Pousette-Dart’s first gallery show, at the Artists’ Gallery, in 1941, but above and beyond its exploration of an important artist’s beginnings, this show is valuable in displaying some of the tangled roots of Abstract Expressionism.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Richard Pousette-Dart: mythic heads and forms, paintings and drawings from 1935 to 1942, Knoedler & Company'