Who was Lee Krasner?
Lee Krasner (1908–1984) was a pioneer of Abstract Expressionism and a key figure in American art. Her energetic work reflected the spirit of possibility in post-war New York though her importance has too often been eclipsed by her marriage to Jackson Pollock.
Kufic (1965) by Lee KrasnerBarbican Centre
From the cacophonous hues of her ‘Primary Series’ a much quieter painting emerged.
Upon viewing this work in 1968, art critic Lawrence Campbell said:
‘Kufic, 1966, [is] one of her best works, [with] only minimal colour – just a large tan bareness with yellow writing heroically twisting into thicks and thins to make movements and forms faintly complemented by some crayon marks, a kind of preliminary drawing, on the canvas’.
Quite unlike the other boisterous paintings of the ‘Primary Series’, Kufic offers a moment of contemplation with a much sparer composition and muted colour palette.
Rather than the weighty organic forms that dominate some of her ‘Primary Series’ paintings, 'Kufic' features a series of more calligraphic forms, not dissimilar to a form of writing, which was of continuous interest to Krasner’s throughout her life.
In a 1973 interview, Krasner was referring to her earlier ‘Little Image’ paintings (1946-9) which feature dense compositions of hieroglyphic shapes and symbols, when she said:
'[hieroglyphics are] a preoccupation of mine from way back and every once in a while it comes into my work again…
'In my last show at Marlborough which was in 1968, I have a painting called 'Kufic', which is the name of an early form of Arabic writing.'
'Every once in a while, I fall back to what I call my mysterious writings...'
'I have no idea what this is about but it runs through periods of my work’.
Written by Charlotte Flint, Exhibition Assistant for Lee Krasner: Living Colour.
Lee Krasner: Living Colour took place at the Barbican Art Gallery in London from 30 May—1 September 2019.
'Lee Krasner: Living Colour' celebrates the work and life of Lee Krasner (1908–1984), a pioneer of Abstract Expressionism. The first major presentation of her work in Europe for more than 50 years, 'Lee Krasner: Living Colour' tells the story of a formidable artist, whose importance has too often been eclipsed by her marriage to Jackson Pollock.