| 1st ed
Blackwell North Amer
Jack Beal first attained prominence in the early 1960s when he was one of the first American artists to renounce abstract expressionism for realist painting, feeling that he was raising rather than lowering the stakes of his art by doing so. Since then the artist has, in author Eric Shanes's words, "mined a rich vein of representation, which has usually demonstrated a fine sense of observation, an inventive painterliness, an acute responsiveness to shape and pattern, the ability to create dynamic compositional structures, and always the willingness to take artistic risks rather than languish in a single mode of picture making. Moreover, in his best works, Beal's pushing of representational forms to their interface with abstraction has been responsible for the creation of some of the most striking and unusual images of the period."
Jack Beal, the first monograph on this leading American artist, surveys his entire oeuvre to date, including paintings, murals, drawings, and prints, beginning with what he himself regards as his first important picture, The Saw (1964).
Beal's increasing desire "to make the world inside the canvas nearly as real as the world beyond it," to make the pictorial space as believable as real space, coincided with a decision to tackle narrative in his work - an unfashionable stance and another way of raising the stakes of his art. This combination resulted in a painting of a mythological subject which was also, perhaps more significantly, his first major treatment of the reclining female nude, Danae I of 1965. Through the next decade Beal painted a series of nudes that includes many of his most important paintings; the series concluded and culminated in a second treatment of Danae in 1972. Usually these nudes are set amid complex patterns and shapes including both setting and still-life details.
Beal's oeuvre also includes still-lifes done for their own sake; portraits; landscapes; allegories, such as a series on the Virtues and Vices; and a group of murals on the history of labor commissioned by the United States government's General Services Administration to adorn the new Labor Department Building in Washington - the first such project sponsored by the federal government since the great spate of commissions during the 1930s. Through all the artist's work run his passionate moralism and sensuality, which combine with a consummate grasp of his craft to provide works that resonate with visual poetry and emotional density.
Shanes concludes his survey of Jack Beal's life and work: "He has been responsible for a serious body of work, and at his best he has created images of complexity and feeling, pictures that have certainly placed representationalism back on the agenda of serious art....And in his best paintings he has given us rich images that enjoy the power equally to delight us visually, move us emotionally, and stimulate us intellectually."
Jack Beal reproduces all of the artist's most important works, including sixty-four in full color, conveying a range and balance of colors of extraordinary freshness and richness. They are accompanied by a major essay written by Shanes, a bibliography, biographical outline, lists of exhibitions and public collections, and index.
New York : Hudson Hills Press, c1993
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119 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 26 cm