Unstill Life

The Artists that people the pages of Unstill Life were a vibrant cast of characters that reshaped the history of Modern Art. Below, I have included an index that gives a brief description of each, as well as links that I found interesting.

Karel Appel 1921-2006. Appel was a Dutch painter whose vibrant, color-laden canvases were hallmarks of the avant-garde CoBrA movement. He was included in a show my father curated, New Images of Man, in 1959 at MoMA. Later, Appel painted my mother’s portrait. The Karel Appel Foundation

Diane Arbus 1923-1973. An American photographer, Arbus was noted for her square format, black-and-white images of marginalized people. Her frank images captured a unique mix of curiosity, boldness and vulnerability. The last two years of her life, Arbus lived across the hall from us at Westbeth. During this time she was working on a transcendent series of pictures taken at residences for the mentally retarded. The mysterious image of the mentally challenged adults in Halloween costumes from chapter 11 of Unstill Life can be seen on page 65 of this catalogue of selected works: Diane Arbus

Max Beckmann 1884-1950. Considered by many to be the foremost German painter of the 20th Century, Beckmann fused figurative, narrative and symbolic imagery with the essential features of modernism. His painting reflects both his inner turmoil and the turbulence of his time. Beckmann was my father’s touchstone and probably the artist about whom he has written the most. SlideShare.net

Eduardo Chillida 1924-2002. Better known in Europe than America, Chillida was a Basque sculptor, noted for creating monumental abstract works where space becomes the central focus of the art. In 1986, my father authored the first major monograph on this great sculptor. Monument to Tolerance, a vast artificial cave that Chillida designed before his death, is now being constructed in a sacred mountain in the Canary Islands. Mount Tindaya

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Both born on June 13, 1935, Christo in Bulgaria, Jeanne-Claude in Casablanca, they married and began a life-long collaboration of visually impressive installation works that change the way viewers experience the environment. Jeanne-Claude died on November 18, 2009. Christo continues their projects. In the late 70s, my father was the project director of Running Fence, which for 14 days, stretched for 24.5 miles along the coast of Northern California. Christojeanneclaude.net

Bruce Conner 1933-2008. Conner was part of the group of Funk artists my father exhibited in Berkeley in 1967. Often a subversive figure in the art world, he was the creator of avant-garde films, assemblage sculptures, intricate collages, enigmatic drawings and punk-rock photographs in the Bay Area for five decades. Walter Hopps on Bruce Conner for Bombsite

Joseph Cornell 1903-72. Self-taught, Cornell assembled magical glass-fronted boxes out of bric-à-brac. My mother based her O’Henry Award winning novella, The Education of a Queen, on Cornell and his boxes. Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall)

Willem de Kooning 1904-1997. Dutch American painter, part of the New York School, de Kooning pioneered radically abstract painting, yet his famous series of women blended abstraction with figuration. One of the most important and prolific artists of the 20th century, his work was jazzy, lyrical, lush and sometimes rude. De Kooning was a vigorous and funny man and my father still fondly quotes many of his jokes. John Elderfield’s virtual narrative of seven de Kooning paintings.

Richard Diebenkorn 1922-1993. Called a classical modernist, Diebenkorn was an American painter whose figurative work grew out of Abstract Expressionism. His later, lyrical abstract Ocean Park series, in turn, developed from the figurative work. At college, studying art history for the first time, I fell in love with Deibenkorn’s Woman at a Window, 1957. It is still one of my favorite paintings. The Ocean Park Series

Jean Dubuffet 1901-1985. Known for his early primitive style of painting and his transformative use of materials, French painter, sculptor and writer, Jean Dubuffet, rebelled against academic standards of high-art. He created works that emphasized texture and a more authentic approach to image making. Dubufett was included in the New Images of Man exhibit in 1959 (as was de Kooning, Appel, Deibenkorn, Giacometti and Bacon). In 1962, my father curated Dubuffet’s retrospective at MoMA. Dubuffet Foundation, Return of the Repressed,

Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968. French-American painter, sculptor, chess-player, writer, Duchamp was a pioneer who challenged the assumptions of what constitutes a work of art when he created the first pieces of conceptual art with his Readymades. Willem de Kooning aptly called him a one-man movement. Understanding Duchamp & Marcel Duchamp at Philadelphia Museum of Art

Eric Fischl b. 1948. An American painter, sculptor, printmaker and writer known for depicting emotionally charged, narratively driven images. Of Fischl, my father used to exclaim with excitement, “He’s wrestling with Beckmann.” EricFischl.com

Sam Francis 1923-1994. An American painter and printmaker known for his exuberant colors dispersed on large blazing white fields. Francis began painting after he crashed while piloting an Air Force trainer. When he painted, he said, he felt free, as if he was flying. My father was Sam’s close friend, wrote a monograph on Francis and remains an avid supporter of his legacy. Links: Sam Francis & John Seed on Basel Mural

Sonia Gechtoff b. 1926. An American painter of bold, swirling colors and jagged-edge compositions, Sonia’s work will be included in a major retrospective of Abstract Expressionist Women Artists at the Denver Art Museum in 2016. Sonia still lives and paints in Westbeth on the 9th floor. Westbeth Artists.

Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966. Swiss sculptor and painter, Giacometti was known for his isolated attenuated figures, and as a key player in the Surrealist movement. My father said that Giacometti’s work was neither imitated nor slandered, but like a saint, Giacometti existed in a niche by himself. Alberto Giacometti Foundation

Philip Guston 1913-1980. An American painter and printmaker, Guston abandoned abstraction, turning to painting dense, highly personal, enigmatic, figurative cartoonish imagery. John Yau on Philip Guston & Nicole Krauss on Philip Guston

Hans Hoffmann 1880-1966. Born in Germany, Hoffmann was an important painter and teacher of post-World War II art. He brought American artists in contact with European modernists. His paintings are explorations of structure, special tensions, and the inter-relationships of colors. Hans Hoffmann.org

Wassily (Vassily) Kandinsky 1866-1944. Born in Russia and credited with painting the first purely abstract work, Kandinksy sought to paint “inner necessity.” Kandinsky is believed to have had the neurological condition synesthesia, which results in the joining of sensations that are normally experienced separately. In Kandinsky’s case, he heard colors and saw sounds. Guggenheim

Paul Klee 1879-1940. Klee’s small-scale, witty and magical canvases were some of the most innovative of the 20th century. A German-Swiss painter, he developed an idiosyncratic style that combined elements of expressionism, cubism and surrealism. Laura Cumming on Paul Klee

Franz Kline 1910-1962. Kline’s black and white canvases helped established Abstract Expressionism along with his friend Willem de Kooning. Labeled an action painter, Kline actually created meticulous sketches and drafts of his gestural paintings before transferring them to the canvas. MoMA.org

Lynn Hershman Leeson b. 1941. Artist and filmmaker Hershman Leeson is a pioneer in the use of technology and new media in her art. She focuses on issues of identity and the relationship between real and virtual worlds. Lynn was a one-time girlfriend of my father’s who took me under her wing in the summer of 1978 when her pioneering organization, The Floating Museum, commissioned on-site performances and installations in museums, prisons, public buildings, city streets and rural landscapes throughout the Bay Area. Lynn Hershman & The Floating Museum

Len Lye 1901-1980 New-Zealand kinetic sculptor and experimental filmmaker, Lye was in my father’s Directions in Kinetic Sculpture show in 1966. Lye saw film as art in motion. Len Lye Foundation & Wystan Curnow on Len Lye

Mark Pauline b. 1953. Pauline is an American artist, inventor and founder of Survival Research Laboratories, a venue for industrial performance art, where large-scale machines and robots battle in huge arenas. In the post punk days in San Francisco, I joined audiences of thousands to watch SRLs modern gladiator events. Link to video archive: Illusions of Shameless Abundance & Carnival of Misplaced Devotion

Harold Persico Paris 1925-1979. Known primarily for his sculptures and printmaking, Paris was an early innovator in the use of materials like plastics and ceramics in his environments. Harold was an imaginative, exuberant personality, equally experimental in life and art. Berkeley Art Center

Jackson Pollock 1912-1956. Preeminent American Painter of the New York School, celebrated for his unique style of dripping and splattering over the canvas, Pollock never thought of his paintings as abstract. Pollock-Krasner Foundation & Pollock-Krasner House

Robert Rauschenberg 1925-2008. In the 1950s Rauschenberg created his famous “Combines,” works that straddled the borders between painting, sculpture and collage. In 1953 he famously asked De Kooning for one of his drawings to erase. By taking on de Kooning, the most famous of the Abstract Expressionist, Rauschenberg was both paying tribute and endeavoring to supersede him. Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

Ad Reinhardt 1913-1967. An abstract painter who favored geometric patterns and a limited palette, Reinhardt told my father that he sought to abandon color, shape, space and form and paint the ineffable. MoMA.org

George Rickey 1907-2002. An American abstract kinetic sculptor who made simplicity and movement the central component of his work. Rickey, a good friend of the family and a former journalist, wrote the introduction to my father’s Kinetic show catalogue. Rickey’s sculptures could be humorous or mysterious, precise as scissor blades, graceful as gazelles. George Rickey Works

Mark Rothko 1903-1970. Born in Latvia, Rothko was an American painter whose great meditative tablets sought to contain emotion. My mother loved Mark’s sense of irony and drama, my father the cadence of ecstasy and tragedy in his paintings. He curated Rothko’s one-man show at MoMA in 1961, and later at the Rothko trial, gave a valuation of his work on the side of Marlborough Gallery. National Gallery of Art, Tate Gallery & David Levine on The Matter of Mark Rothko

Carolee Schneemann b. 1939. Schneemann is an American artist who explores the body, sexuality and gender in her work. Interested in the taboos of eroticism, Schneemann’s work confronts the forbidden in society. As an iconic figure in feminist art, she has focused on the sexual expression of women, rather than their victimization. Caroleeschneemann.com

Cindy Sherman b. 1954. American photographer, Sherman’s has created a unique body of work in which she transforms herself into a variety of meticulously crafted characters in staged settings. One of her early Movie Stills was included in an exhibit at The Floating Museum. Metro Pictures

Theodoros Stamos 1922-1997. Greek American painter of subtly colored poetic canvases. The youngest of the original “Irascibles,” Stamos was a protégé of Rothko’s, friend of my mother’s, and then a disgraced trustee in the Rothko case. Stamos Slideshow

Alfred Stieglitz 1864–1964. As a photographer, Stieglitz was an early proponent of photography as an art form as rich as painting. He ran two galleries in New York, was an advocate of 20th century painters like Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, John Marin and Arthur Dove, and my father’s distant cousin and mentor in America. Stieglitz and His Circle

Jean Tinguely 1925-1991. Swiss artist known for his sculptural kinetic machines, most notably, Homage to New York, which my father inadvertently allowed to burst into flame in the MoMA sculpture garden in 1960. Museum Tinguely & MoMA.org

Andy Warhol 1928-1987. Warhol’s art and persona explored the relationship between celebrity and consumerism. Starting as a commercial illustrator, he became renowned for his early Pop pieces and a cool style that was a stark contrast to the hot expressionism that preceded him. Expanding on Duchamp’s readymades with mass-produced objects and silk-screens, Warhol redefined the nature of what constitutes a work of art. Warhol Museum

Doug Wheeler b. 1939. An American artist and a pioneer of the light and space movement, Wheeler is known for his Infinity Environments, luminous rooms designed to give viewers the pure experience of space, volume and light. Link: Doug Wheeler