The Cosmological Musings of Michael West, an American Abstract Expressionist

Michael (Corinne) West, “Inexperienced Apple” (1959), oil on canvas, 40 x 87 three/four inches (courtesy of Hollis Taggart, NY.)

All through her life, Michael West (1908-1991) experimented with semiotics from underneath the radar. A number of works in Area Poetry, on view at Hollis Taggart in Chelsea, detach linguistic and symbolic associations to reach at unusual meanings. Spanning 4 many years, the exhibition exhibits how the artist operated behind a gendered facade as Summary Expressionism went business. 

Michael West in her studio with “Mystic Power” (1946), 1947 (picture courtesy of the Michael (Corinne) West Property Archives; picture by Francis Lee)

Born Corinne Michelle West, she assimilated into the male-dominated New York artwork world by taking a person’s title, very like George (Grace) Hartigan and Lee (Lenore) Kras(s)ner. An outsider early on, West believed that Hans Hofmann’s faculty — the place she briefly studied — promoted cultish formulaity. Critics principally spotlight West for her proximity to well-known male artists in gallery and museum exhibitions. And whereas Arshile Gorky’s romantic curiosity helped jumpstart her profession, West’s personal musings on colour concept and the cosmos higher characterize her improvement as a kind of shapeshifter. 

Working with the idea of “plasticity,” West would usually begin work with one thing tangible in thoughts after which land elsewhere. Her early Cubist portraits gave technique to expansive Summary Expressionist work all through the ‘40s, culminating within the multicolored “Blue Determine” (1948). She destroyed and repurposed a few of her accomplished work to create textured items devoid of style, corresponding to with “Nihilism” (1949). On this work, West rubs sand over an elaborate drip portray, abandoning a colorless, terrestrial chasm.

Michael (Corinne) West, “Blue Determine” (1948), oil and sand on canvas, 37 x 26 inches (courtesy of Hollis Taggart, NY)

Naming and identification had been negotiable for West, who handled portray as a metaphysical research. Thick streaks of black, white, and yellow cascade in opposition to a crimson background in “Inexperienced Apple” (1959). In “Flowers” (1962-64), she lays pictures of seashore scenes and torn gallery flyers onto vaguely floral brushstrokes. Essence was extra integral than logic, revealing West’s preoccupation with existentialism. Her oeuvre gives additional context on the forgotten ladies of the postwar period, who hardly ever adhered to at least one fashion.

Michael (Corinne) West, “Untitled [Double-Sided]” (1970-71), enamel on paperboard, 28 x 22 1/eight inches (courtesy of Hollis Taggart, NY)

Space Poetry: The Action Paintings of Michael West continues at Hollis Taggart (521 West 26th Avenue, Chelsea, Manhattan) via December 21, 2019.

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