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.
Palingenesis (1971) by Lee KrasnerBarbican Centre
In 1973 Krasner presented twelve new paintings at the Marlborough Gallery in New York. The show was met with positive reviews, with the canvases being described as ‘her most mature and beautiful [work] to date’.
In contrast to the soft, biomorphic shapes undulating across her earlier paintings, a number of hard-edged abstract forms now emerged.
The works brimmed with colour – kelly green, carmine red and a fuchsia pink that the critic Robert Hughes described as ‘rap[ping] hotly on the eyeball at 50 paces’.
The raucous energy of her ‘Primary Series’ however, was now stilled into a series of quieter geometric forms described by the art historian Cindy Nemser as ‘expansive yet contained … stately [and] slow-moving’.
The works shown at Marlborough, which might be compared with colour field painting or what Clement Greenberg called ‘post-painterly abstraction’, demonstrate Krasner’s endless experimentation in the studio and her reluctance to develop a signature style.
'Palingenesis' is a riot of raspberry...
...that relates to the Greek term for ‘rebirth’.
The painting’s title has a certain poignancy, given Krasner’s thirst for reinvention, which did not lessen as she grew older; indeed, as she explained to curator Barbara Rose in 1972, ‘evolution, growth and change go on. Change is life’.
Krasner’s works of the early 1970s formed a prominent part of the exhibition 'Lee Krasner: Large Paintings', curated by Marcia Tucker at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1973.
The canvases were once again met with glowing reviews, in what would become Krasner’s most high-profile show to date.
In an essay for the accompanying catalogue, Tucker highlighted the originality of this series and the constantly evolving nature of Krasner’s art, saying:
‘These are no longer abstract expressionist paintings. They have moved far from the tradition which her earlier work helped to create’.
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.