Hauser & Wirth is pleased to present its first solo exhibition of Ed Clark’s work since announcing representation of the artist in 2019. Devoted to paintings made after the year 2000, the exhibition finds Clark returning to and building upon central motifs of his practice: specifically his use of the push broom to create enigmatic compositions with broad strokes, painted on canvas laid flat on the floor. Clark has masterfully established a unique form of expressionism by literally sweeping his medium into atmospheric, emotive, and
ultimately exuberant works.
Over the course of seven decades, Clark’s experimentations with pure color, abstract form, and the seductive materiality of paint have yielded an oeuvre of remarkable originality, extending the language of American abstraction. Clark is regarded as a pioneer of the New York School and a formative addition to the group of abstract artists working in the post-war era.
His breakthroughs have an important place in the story of modern and contemporary art. In 1956, while working in Paris, Clark began exploring new ways of painting and made his first breakthrough discovery – what he calls ‘the big sweep’ – as he began using a push broom to achieve effects that neither a hand nor standard paintbrush could render. Later that same year, he moved back to New York, where he is credited with creating the first shaped abstract painting – an innovation that continues to reverberate today. In 1968, while visiting Joan Mitchell in Vertheuil, he began painting oval canvases to reflect the shape of the human eye. Through the evolution of successive bodies of work, Clark continued his use of the push broom as a giant paintbrush. This allowed him to make straight, long strokes, thus extending the momentum of his sweeping gesture across an entire surface. This newfound technique produced a sense of ‘drive’ within Clark’s paintings, as he seemingly moved the slabs of thick paint across the canvas at great velocity. Furthermore, by using an ordinary push broom, Clark elevates a humble process of labor into an instrument of high art.
The works on view at Hauser & Wirth were created between 2000 and 2013, and are seminal examples of Clark’s broad brushstroke, now liberated from the horizontal composition of his earlier works. In the painting ‘Blue & Red’ (2005), brushstrokes move freely across the negative space of raw canvas. The later works are characterized by a certain freedom in his act of painting. As Clark puts it: ‘It struck me that if I paint a person – no matter how I do it – it is a lie. The truth is in the physical brushstroke and the subject of the painting is the paint itself.’
Clark’s work is currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in a critically admired installation of works from the permanent collection. He was also included in the recent traveling exhibition ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963 – 1983,’ previously at The Broad Museum, Los Angeles; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas; Brooklyn Museum, New York; and Tate Modern, London.
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