Jack Youngerman: Folding Screen Paintings
In the 1970s, the artist Jack Youngerman (b. 1926) made a series of paintings both on linen and directly on wood panel that were joined to form folding screens. Operating in a sphere between painting and sculpture, these astonishing works blur the boundaries between those two media, creating a new form that is distinctly original. The flatness of the painting is belied by the three-dimensionality of the screen and it is this tension that gives these works a vibrant and pulsating presence.
Following his stateside service in WWII, Youngerman was one of many young Americans who took advantage of the GI Bill and went to Paris to study at the …cole des Beaux Arts. By his own admission he spent less time after the first year in the formal atmosphere of the academy and more time exploring the history of art, from the newly discovered Lascaux Caves to the first showing of Matisseís cut-outs and the studios of Brancusi and Arp. He returned to the U.S. in the mid-fifties, settling in lower Manhattan at Coenties Slip with a group of other painters that included Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana, and Agnes Martin.
Since 1968, Youngerman has maintained a house and studio in Bridgehampton. Begun after his move to the East End, these folding screen paintings, with titles like High Tide and Mecox Bay, undoubtedly reflect the influence of his new surroundings. In their meticulous execution of exquisite line and broad areas of unmodulated color, they make allusion as well to the Great Wave of Hokusai and the influence of Japanese screens. As in much of his work, Youngerman has here combined the direct observation of nature with a heightened sense of color and shape, transfixing natural phenomena into a rhythmic play of line and form.
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