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Beauford Delaney: 1960s Paris Abstractions
Concurrent with the exhibition of William H. Johnson's work (William H. Johnson: Works from the Collection of Mary Beattie Brady), Michael Rosenfeld Gallery will be showing a selection of abstract oil paintings by Beauford Delaney. Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is simultaneously exhibiting William H. Johnson and Beauford Delaney because their art and lives offer fascinating parallels. Johnson and Delaney were both African-Americans born in 1901. Each began their lives in the American South, worked and studied in New York City, but left America and went to Europe where they spent many years painting.
While in Europe, both artists travelled extensively and became part of the avant-garde. They socialized with leading European artists, writers, musicians, and intellectuals and consistently exhibited at distinguished galleries and museums. Interestingly, all the paintings in the two exhibitions were executed in Europe.
While both artists received academic training during the 1920s, William H. Johnson at the National Academy of Design and Beauford Delaney at the Boston Normal School, the mature work of both artists is not traditional; rather, they may be described as "expressionist" or "primitive". Tragically, both Beauford Delaney and William H. Johnson died during the 1970s while confined to hospitals for the mentally ill.
The works in this exhibition are predominately monochromatic fields of color were executed during the 1960s while Delaney was living in Paris. Each painting consists of elaborate and obsessive swirls of paint, often thickly applied, in hues of yellow, blue, and red. These luminous abstractions which Delaney began late in life are pure and simplified expressions of the spirituality which is very much the essence of his art.