Abstract Expressionism

Ab Ex Contents

Ab Ex Essays


Abstract Expressionism 1967

by Gary Comenas

to 1968

Lisa [de Kooning] Ward: "All through my childhood it was our routine, while dinner was getting ready, we'd watch TV and he was drawing, always drawing. He would draw a great deal with his eyes closed. Lots on legal pads or an eight-by-ten typewriter sheet pad. Sometimes he'd make a drawing for me to color in. He'd sit there with his eyes closed and his legs crossed as if he was looking at the TV. And he'd squint a lot. Then when he opened his eyes, he'd turn his head to the left mostly or to the right and think about [the drawing]. Then he'd put it away. He'd do this like a lady does knitting." (DK497)

1967: Robert Motherwell begins his Open series. (HM)
1967: Adolph Gottlieb is appointed to The Art Commission for the City of New York.
1967: Robert Motherwell becomes Fellow in Perpetuity of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (HM)
1967: New York: The New Art Scene is published.

The book was a collaboration between photographer Ugo Mulas and the director of the Jewish Museum, Alan Solomon. Included Marcel Duchamp, Barnett Newman and younger artists Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg. (MH)

1967: Barnett Newman continues his "Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue" paintings, completing one in acrylics. (MH)
1967: Mark Rothko's worth is estimated to be $207,538. (RO506)

According to Rothko biographer, James E.B. Breslin,"The principal source of this income was for the Houston chapel, for which Rothko was still owed about $35,000 annually until 1974." (RO662n66)

1967: Walker and Company publishes twenty-four charcoal drawings by Willem de Kooning from 1966.

All of the drawings were figurative - female and male, with some of the men apparently crucified. (DK487)

January 1967: Willem De Kooning joins M. Knoedler and Company. (DK489)

In 1966 Xavier Fourcade was hired by M. Knoedler and Company, one of New York's oldest and most prestigious old-master galleries, to start their contemporary art department. Joan Mitchell recommended de Kooning to Fourcade. De Kooning's lawyer, Lee Eastman, negotiated a deal guaranteeing de Kooning $100,000 a year and giving the gallery the right of first refusal for the next three years. Eastman wanted Bill to "feel like a movie star, with a movie star's salary." According to Eastman, Bill's reaction when he was told of the deal, was to say "I'd better paint some good pictures." (DK489)

The gallery was located at 14 East 57th Street.

February 27, 1967: Mark Rothko agrees to donate paintings to the Tate Gallery in London.

Mark Rothko, Bernard Reis and the director of the Tate, Norman Reid, finally came to an agreement. Rothko would donate 6-8 paintings within the next two years, followed by a bequest of more pictures for a total of "up to something like 30 works." In a follow-up letter the board of trustees agreed to to show at least eight of the paintings on display permanently and that "the group of pictures shown requires to be seen as a separate entity." (RO515)

Early 1967: Willem de Kooning paints.

De Kooning created numerous new works to supplement the seventeen he had already provided to M. Knoedler for his upcoming first exhibition at the gallery. (DK492) On August 4, 1967 the gallery received 22 more paintings from de Kooning including several Women on the Sign paintings. During an interview in November 1967, de Kooning was questioned about the suggestiveness of the new works and said "that's not the main issue for me. I'm working on a pose with which I can explore foreshortening and perspective... I realized that it looked kinda sexy, but I don't think it's pornographic..." (DK498)

April 11, 1967: News of Mark Rothko's bequest to the Tate Gallery in London appears in The New York Times.

In an article titled "Rothko Weighs Gift Of 20 of His Works To the Tate Gallery," the Times reported that Rothko was "considering donating about 20 of his pictures to the Tate Gallery." The article cited Tate Gallery director Norman Reid, as its source. Rothko was upset that the news of his bequest had been reported and wrote an angry letter to the trustees. Reid wrote to Rothko on April 21, 1967, "They [the trustees] were very distressed - as indeed I am - that the Press should have got hold of the fact that you were considering making a gift to Britain and were very sad to think that it may have caused you worry and irritation." Reid noted that the reporter who had spoken to him told him that he had learned of their discussions in New York and Reid "thought the best course was to keep the story straight as he was determined to publish what he knew in any case." (RO515/667-8n9,11)

April 1967: Mark Rothko calls John de Menil to tell him the chapel paintings are finished.

A few months after his phone call he was visited in the studio by Mrs. de Menil, her assistant Helen Winkler, and one of the architects Howard Barnstone. At the time Arthur Lidov had a studio next to Rothko's.

Arthur Lidov:

"I can only say that Mark was shitting bricks. He wandered in, these people were due to come at 3 in the afternoon, and from about 11 in the morning, he wandered in and out of my studio. He'd come out with these, 'Do you think they're going to like them?' But when they came and they did find it an acceptable approach, he was enormously relieved. He was very elated." (RO474)

Spring 1967: Joan Ward and Lisa return to the Springs.

Joan and her daughter by de Kooning, Lisa, joined de Kooning in the Springs. Lisa later recalled that "There was no conversation in my family. Dinner was served in front of TV" and that her father "was crazy about Jackie Gleason, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Red Buttons, Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone, The Honeymooners..." (DK496) De Kooning would often spend time sketching before dinner:

Lisa Ward:

"All through my childhood it was our routine, while dinner was getting ready, we'd watch TV and he was drawing, always drawing. He would draw a great deal with his eyes closed. Lots on legal pads or an eight-by-ten typewriter sheet pad. Sometimes he'd make a drawing for me to color in. He'd sit there with his eyes closed and his legs crossed as if he was looking at the TV. And he'd squint a lot. Then when he opened his eyes, he'd turn his head to the left mostly or to the right and think about [the drawing]. Then he'd put it away. He'd do this like a lady does knitting." (DK497)

June 1967: Barnett Newman's Voice of Fire is exhibited in the U.S. Pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal, Canada. (MH)
June 7, 1967: An open letter is published in The New York Times signed by Barnett Newman and Adolph Gottlieb.

The letter called for the United States to "safeguard the integrity, security, and survival of Israel and its people." Other signatories included Hannah Arendt, Nathan Glazer, Irving Howe and Alfred Kazin. (MH)

August 1967: Barnett Newman speaks on "The Spiritual Dimension of Contemporary Art."

Newman spoke at the First International Congress on Religion, Architecture, and the Visual Arts in New York:

Barnett Newman:

"What matters to a true artist is that he distinguish between a place and no place at all; and the greater the work of art, the greater will be this feeling. And this feeling is the fundamental spiritual dimension." (MH)

August 30, 1967: Ad Reinhardt dies. (PA184)

Hospitalised for heart problems earlier in the year Reinhardt delivered his last public lecture in July at the Showhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine before dying in his studio on August 30th. (RT233)

In early 1969 Reinhardt's widow, Rita, would begin an affair with Mark Rothko.

October 1967: Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk is unveiled.

Two versions of the sculpture were unveiled - one in front of the Seagram Building in New York and the other next to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The Seagram Broken Obelisk was included in the "Sculpture in Environment" exhibition organized by Irving Sandler (see below.)

The sculptures were fabricated at Lippincott Inc. in North Haven, Connecticut. Newman had been introduced to Lippincott by the sculptor Robert Murray. Murray was a close friend of Newman and helped him with a number of projects during the last decade of his life (including the casting of Here I) and encouraged him to do more sculptures - first at Treitel-Gratz (a fabricator then on E. 32nd St in New York) and later, Lippincott Inc. - places where Murray cast or fabricated his own work.

Robert Murray (sculptor):

"Barney's Broken Obelisk was fabricated not cast - even though they were made in an edition of three (and now a 4th, which went to Berlin) - a practice more common to cast sculpture where molds are involved. Only one of Newman's sculptures was cast - by the Modern Art Foundry from a plaster and wood original - and that was Here I . For a discussion on fabricated sculpture see Jonathan Lippincott's book Large Scale: Fabricating Sculpture in the 1960s and 1970s recently published by Princeton Architectural Press, NY." (Email 24/11/10)

It was while working on the pyramid shaped base of Broken Obelisk that Newman became interested in making a triangular painting and had two isosceles stretchers made. One was eight feet, ten inches high and the the other ten feet high. (MH)

Currently, versions of Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk are installed at The Museum of Modern Art, outside the Rothko Chapel in Houston and on the University of Washington campus.

An exhibition copy of the sculpture also exists, created in 2005 by Lippincott Merrifield Roberts. It can be seen outside the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Germany.

October 1 - 31, 1967: "Sculpture in the Environment" exhibition includes Broken Obelisk.

The exhibition of public sculpture was organized by Irving Sandler. Twenty-seven artists were represented. (IS323)

From Suzanne Boettger, "A Found Weekend, 1967: Public Sculpture and Anti-Monuments," Art in America (Jan, 2001):

"Sculpture in [the] Environment" was the first exhibition in New York City to temporarily move large-scale sculpture into the public arena. Sponsored by the city's Office of Cultural Affairs, the display served as that agency's contribution to a larger event, the Cultural Showcase Festival. Sculptors whose works were scattered around Manhattan included those specifically known for making large welded abstractions, such as Alexander Calder (on West 135th Street), Alexander Liberman (in Battery Park) and George Rickey (at the New York Public Library), as well as one who was better known as a painter: Barnett Newman, whose 26-foot Broken Obelisk was placed in the conspicuous forecourt of the Seagram Building on Park Avenue. The show also included newer sculptural forms such as Orange Vertical Floor Neon at New York University's Loeb Student Center, by Stephen Antonakos, wood constructions by Louise Nevelson outside the CBS building at Sixth Avenue and 52nd Street, a Plexiglas-walled experiential environment by Les Levine in the forecourt of the Time-Life Building on Sixth Avenue at 50th Street, and a nocturnal event by Forrest Myers, who projected four carbon arc searchlights from Tompkins Square Park. Two of the works on view became permanent: David Smith's Zig IV remains at Lincoln Center, presently in the lobby of Avery Fisher Hall, and [Tony] Bernard Rosenthars [sic] huge cube, Alamo, still pirouettes en pointe on the traffic island at Astor Place."

November 1967: Barnett Newman visits the opening of ROSC '67 in Dublin.

Newman's work was included in an exhibition of both contemporary and ancient art - "The Poetry of Vision." Among the works were his recently completed paintings - Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue II, Queen of the Night II, and Now II. Newman and his wife also visited continental Europe, traveling to Amsterdam and Eindhoven in the Netherlands and London, Basel and Paris. (MH)

November 10, 1967: Willem De Kooning's first exhibition opens at M. Knoedler and Company.

The show would travel to Knoedler's Paris gallery after New York. It was de Kooning's first New York show since 1962. (DK492) Among the works were his four door paintings: Woman Sag Harbor; Woman Accabonac; Woman Springs and Woman, Montauk. (DK500) De Kooning did not attend the opening party. Nor was he at a charity gala preview on the 13th, hosted by Olga Hirshhorn. He explained, "I don't go to openings much anymore... It's quite a change. I used to go to parties and sit in cafeterias - Riker's - and talk for hours. Now I see just a few old friends." (DK500)

Reviews of the show were mostly negative. Hilton Kramer called it a "debacle" in the November 19th issue of The New York Times. He noted that as the 1950s went on, "the cult of personality seemed to increase in exact ratio to the decline of the artist's work" and "the fabrication of synthetic de Koonings had become a 10th Street industry." (DK500-1) Paul Richard, reviewing the show for the Washington Post, wrote "It takes long moments for the eye to adjust to the visual impact that they [the paintings] generate. But as it does, as the viewer begins to recover his bearings, as his shock begins to dissipate, he finds - quite suddenly - that his initial awe is dissolving as well." (DK501)

Seven of the paintings from the exhibition were sold by the end of the year - including a door painting - Woman Accabonac - which was said to have been purchased by the Whitney Museum of American Art. Although it was true that the Whitney became the owner of the painting, they actually got it for free. M. Knoedler donated $20,000 of the price and another donor contributed the remaining $18,700. (DK492/503)

November 20, 1967: "Don Quixote in Springs" appears in Newsweek.

The article, featuring quotes from an interview with Willem de Kooning, was written by David L. Shirey. (DK487/675n487)

Willem de Kooning:

"I'm 63 now and I don't have the Don Quixote energy like I used to have in my painting. I can't work as much. A certain sadness comes over me when I walk around here; it's so beautiful and I worry about getting on in years - getting on to the other side." (DK487)

End 1967: Mark Rothko gives Sketch for Mural 6 (1958) to the Tate Gallery in London. (RO516)

The gift was the first of Rothko's bequest of the Seagram murals.

Sketch for Mural 6 is known as Black on Maroon (1958).

End 1967: Mark Rothko's chapel paintings go into storage.

Rothko placed the paintings in storage with his restorer, Daniel Goldreyer. He selected eighteen paintings for the chapel. Fourteen were hung and four alternates were stored when the chapel was completed in 1971. (RO474) Rothko never got to see the completed space with his work. By the time the chapel was finished he was dead.

December 1967: Willem de Kooning ends up in Southampton Hospital (again) after a binge.

He was in the hospital for several weeks - the bill for the psychiatric sessions alone came to $1,510. (DK504)

December 21, 1967: An open letter against anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union is published in the New York Review of Books.

Barnett Newman was one of the signatories of the letter. (MH)

to 1968

Abstract Expressionism

Ab Ex Contents

Ab Ex Essays