Paul Kasmin Gallery is pleased to announce the upcoming exhibition Al Held: Paintings 1979-1985, featuring the artist’s hard-edge, color paintings. The works will be on view at 293 Tenth Avenue in the first showing of Held’s work with the gallery.
American abstract artist Al Held (1928-2005) used a formal vocabulary of clearly articulated Euclidean forms to explore the expansive possibilities and philosophical implications of illusionary space, its coordinates charted through the artist’s progressive stages of image making. Held’s complex geometric configurations simulate a three-dimensional frontier of almost limitless depth and capacity. Marcia Tucker praised Held’s paintings for “making space conceptual, intellectual, abstract, and magical.” Held’s ingenious compositions rival the virtual configurations of computer art, but the artist worked directly on canvas. A single painting was the often the result of a year’s effort or longer. Each canvas accumulated multiple layers of paint, as Held, pulling order from chaos, repeatedly revised his compositions to maximize the work’s perceptual, spatial, and optical impact.
Al Held was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1928 and studied art at the Arts Student League and the Academie de la Grande Chaumière. In his early pigment paintings, Held aimed to give gesture structure and his initial efforts resulted in thick, heavily-impastoed canvases. During the sixties, however, Held reversed directions and introduced bold forms into his painting, which he often produced on colossal-sized canvases. As Held continued to explore precision, scale, and planar figures, he began to use acrylic paints. This gave his paintings a hard-edged clarity that accentuated the intricacies of their components. After more than a decade of working exclusively in black and white, Held reintroduced vibrant color into his paintings, the polychromatic palette heightening the perceptual impact of his work and dramatizing the elaborate interplay of its elements. Al Held: Paintings 1979-1985 highlights this window in Held’s oeuvre, a mere fraction of his 55-year career.
For decades Held was an influential professor at Yale University and has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions. In 1974, he was the subject of a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. His paintings are part of the permanent collections of museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC.