Norman Bluhm | 2019

Movements associated with
Abstract Expressionism
Action painting

Bluhm was an Abstract Expressionist painter and similar to Resnick, he was gone during the late 40s and early 50s because he was fighting in WW2, after which he spent time in Paris on the GI Bill attending the Ecole des Beaux Arts. His style is decidedly Abstract Expressionist, with repetitious organic strokes nearly uniform throughout the canvas. Bluhm invents his own rhythmic language that is closer to the totally abstract work of Jackson Pollock; both encompass the entire surface of the painting in a balanced way. One of the differences though is Bluhm’s interest in color and light, in this he is more informed by French Impressionism. The works in the collection are all mostly the 1950s, the time when he is closest related to Pollock’s style of painting.

Bluhm’s did not cater to the commercial art world and for this his work has been given less attention than some of his contemporaries. This combined with the emergence of Pop and conceptual art in the 1960s, left less room for his work to be recognized by a wide audience.

Bluhm was born in Chicago and educated in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Architecture under Mise van der Rohe. He went to art school briefly in Florence before attending the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1947. At this time, he was exposed to Bauhaus ideas regarding craft and design.

Bluhm was in the Air Force during WWII, he flew a B-26 plane over North Africa and Europe. This would later have an impact on his paintings, the sense of space and speed and violence. After the war he was one of many American expat writers and artists who lived in Paris. He ended up marrying and not returning stateside until 1956.

Once in NY he became a regular at the Cedar Tavern where he convened with de Kooning, Kline and O’ Hara. He collaborated on a series of poem-paintings with O’Hara.

1950s/60s gave rise to a new generation of Ab-Exers such as Norman Bluhm, John Chamberlain, Joan Mitchell, Al Leslie and Mark di Suvero. These artists had roots in European painting with an emphasis on basics- composition, drawing, color, surface, and structure.

He had his first solo show at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1957. In 1969 he had his first museum solo exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery. By the 1960s/ 70s his work took on an increasingly violent tone—imbued with Ab Exer like energy. Later his outlook changed and so did his art.

Bluhm in included in the following collections: Smithsonian, Corcoran Gallery, Whitney, the Met, MoMA, among others. He exhibited widely between 1958-1972, at places such as: Carnegie Institute, Guggenheim, MoMA, Jewish Museum, Martha Jackson Gallery, Corcoran and the Whitney.

Selected public collections
Museum of Modern Art, NY
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Whitney Museum of Art, NY
The Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.
Cleveland Museum of Art, OH