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18/3/1994 - 5/6/1994

Franz Kline: Art and the Structure of Identity

One of the foremost representatives of Abstract Expressionism, the North American painter Franz Kline (1910-1962). With this exhibition the Fundació tried to reinstate the true value of the work of Kline, to contextualise its artistic project and to facilitate the public’s access to its actual historical significance. The seventy works on show cover the period between 1947 and 1962, that is, the whole of the artist’s mature phase until his death.

Bearing in mind that this is a relatively short period, that Kline’s work is scattered among a considerable number of collections and that the paintings are extremely fragile, the exhibition "Franz Kline: Art and the Structure of Identity" can be considered one of the most important ever dedicated to this creator.

The exhibition tried to reflect, on the one hand, the internal structure of Kline’s pictorial corpus and, on the other, the articulation of a dialogue between the works and the problems the painter has to face throughout the creative process. The show included paintings both the so-called "black and white" paintings and the colour ones; however, no works were chosen from the early period, since they are academic in character, considered minor and non embryonic of Kline’s mature output. The aim of the retrospective was to dispel the preconceived notion that Kline painted only in black and white and that, when he used colour, this was a simple addition to a black and white base. The artist himself was clear on this issue.

"I don’t think about adding color. I merely want to feel free to paint in color, or in black and white. I painted originally in color and finally arrived at black and white by painting the color out. Then I started with only color, white and no black -then color and black and white. I’m not necessarily after the same thing with these different combinations, for, though some people say that black and white is color, for me color is different. In other words, an area of strong blue or the interrelationship of two different colors is not the same thing as black and white. In using color, I never feel I want to add to or decorate a black and white painting. I simply want to feel free to work both ways. And because someone uses pink, yellow, and red doesn’t necessarily make him a colorist."

Kline’s painting reveals a distance from that of the rest of the Abstract Expressionists, although it also makes evident that a series of mutual influences existed between his work and that of other members of the group. Thus, the oeuvre of Franz Kline cannot be understood without the existence of Jackson Pollock and, above all, Willem de Kooning. Furthermore, the group acted as such, that is, its members shared friendship, ideals and styles, on the one hand, and New York’s downtown on the other, with the mythical Cedar Tavern in University Place as their “centre of operations”.

The exhibition wanted to contribute to the debate, posed some years ago, on the validity of the methodology and the critical and historiographical criteria applied to the study of Abstract Expressionism in particular and to the artistic phenomenon in general. Beyond these considerations, however, the exhibition dedicated to Franz Kline provided the opportunity to contemplate, for the first time in Spain, an oeuvre of great beauty, tense, subtle and, on occasions, poignant.

The exhibition is accompanied by a profusely illustrated book-catalogue with an introduction by Manuel J. Borja-Villel, Director of the Museum of the Fundació Antoni Tąpies, an essay by Stephen C. Foster, the exhibition curator, and texts by Bill Berkson, Frank O’Hara and B.H. Friedman.