Clyfford Still – Amy Feruson

Clyfford Still Paper

Clyfford Still is one of the many and the few abstract expressionists. His work at one time was known while also unknown possibly related to the fact that he pulled his art from the public galleries due to how he thought his art should be viewed. He wanted his art to be enjoyed as a representation of the total collection so that the viewer could see his process and how he worked.

At the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver the up-stairs is solely dedicated to a time line of his life via his work. Personally I walked the time line backwards and then forwards to have a better feel of his art. Each large canvas takes up an entire wall while the smaller ones marched in a straight line across the wall. All of them consuming and attracting the viewer to each individual piece. As you walk into the room the viewer is drawn to the painting like a moth to the flame. You as the viewer want to get closer. You want to examine each one and see each pallet knife stroke and the texture it leaves behind.

His paintings contain lots of movement with this textured technique.  The viewer wants to follow the strokes. One such painting is PH-960 done in 1960. It feels fluid and your eyes don’t want to stop moving across the canvas. You move from one color to another, stroke to stroke.  The viewer could stand there for an hour and still feel excited to see it as they did when they first came in.

The paintings that caused me to stop and stare instantly were the canvases that would consume a wall. The base colors a solid color such as black or blue. PH-1079 done in 1951 is one of these. It has a slightly different black in the lower corner; then there was the bold bright orange stripe on the left edge which balances the piece well. The additional white line breaks the canvas in half but that is not how the eye views it. The blackness draws you in entirely. PH-247 done in 1951 is also a large canvas piece. The large wall canvas contains a blue base and a black off-centered line. There was a very thin orange line, which is almost neon that is also on the left. As well a peachy white line on the very far left. It is a left aligned painting but the pallet knife strokes allow the canvas to feel balanced to the eye.

Still’s earlier works contains small detailed brush strokes. They are based on landscapes around his childhood home inAlberta,Canada. As his style grows his art becomes more abstract. The humans were displayed as figures but they show more of what was going on inside, a feeling of emotion versus actual humans. The elongated face is a predominant strong feature in his figures. These faces show the hard work and suffering that was present at the time where he lived.  His figures slowly become more broken over time. You as the viewer are drawn into the lines of the bodies than over the actual human figure. They become shapes that create a whole. His earlier abstracts still feel like they contain over all shapes. He slowly moved into the work of abstract expressionism. Theses earlier works don’t feel as energetic to me as his later works do.  The smaller paintings don’t hold the viewer as long as the larger works.

Overall the entire trip to theClyffordStillMuseumwas quite enjoyable. His later works spoke far more to me and held my attention longer than his earlier works but I enjoyed seeing them all. The new museum building itself was very interesting to explore. The touch screen time-line explained many things about him as well as other artists and also listed major events that occurred during his life. You were able to see some of his mediums and supplies which personally were really cool and then see how this moved the artist to create the works of art.

One Response

  1. I also thoroughly enjoyed visiting the museum and was captivated by his later works more so then his earlier ones. I agree with your description of his fluid texture and strokes which allows the viewer to really see the detail and work that goes into a painting of that caliber, even if it is more simple than others. Wish you would have included a picture of the images but otherwise well done.

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