THE MEASURED PAINTINGS (1970 – 1986)
July 12 - December 30th 2013
Curated by Petra Giloy-Hirtz in collaboration with the Estate of Hassel Smith
333 Montezuma Arts is proud to present a selection of large paintings by the West Coast painter Hassel Smith.
“The magnificent liberated ‘geometric’ paintings of the 1970s,” as Allan Temko, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, called them, are paintings of exuberant color and masterful brushwork - for today’s eyes contemporary, fresh, and surprising. Around 1970, with a protractor and adhesive tape, Hassel Smith started dividing the canvas into fields, constructing a grid, and configuring simple geometric forms within it: circles, squares, rectangles, spirals. He composed them within relationships, allowing them to overlap, ignoring the edge of the image: like globes, spheres, or solar systems, orbiting around a center. They float, as in some cosmic space, in shades of rose, pink, light green, purple, yellow, orange. The surface is painterly, it is in movement by means of dynamic strokes of the brush; only occasionally do purely opaque areas rest within them like islands. In the sensitive, finely balanced, and often transparent application of delicate colors arises the impression of an exciting connection between the constructed and the free, between chance and control, calculation and spontaneity - a dialogue between fixed order and dynamism. One can hear and feel the rhythm of the works, like the language of a poem, the movement of a dance, like music.
Hassel Smith (1915–2007) was an innovative and widely-appreciated West Coast-based artist during the significant early phases in the development of Abstract Expressionism in the United States. Primarily a painter, he was also active in drawing, printmaking, sculpture, assemblage, collage, poetry, and wrote assorted critical texts from the late thirties to the end of 1997. Smith was a highly influential teacher; from the mid-forties to the early fifties he taught at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), then considered to be the “center of experimental abstraction,” together with, among others, Clyfford Still, Richard Diebenkorn, and summer visiting professors such as Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt. In 1966 Smith moved permanently with his family to England where he taught at the Royal West of England Academy of Art in Bristol. He returned to California on several occasions, exhibiting and teaching—at the campuses of the University of California at Berkeley, Davis, and Los Angeles, and at the San Francisco Art Institute. Smith’s most important solo exhibitions took place on the West Coast, but he is represented in prominent public and private collections across the United States and Europe. Retrospective exhibitions during Smith’s lifetime were at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1975), the Oakland Museum of Art (1981), and the Sonoma Museum of Art (2002).
A recent published book presents a full appreciation of Smith’s achievement: Hassel Smith, Paintings, 1937-1997, edited by Petra Giloy-Hirtz, authors: Paul J. Karlstrom, Susan Landauer, with contributions by Petra Giloy-Hirtz, Robert C. Morgan, Peter Selz, and Allan Temko (1975), Prestel Publishing, Munich London New York 2012.