Beyond Black Mountain College: Asheville Art Museum opens important JT survey 1952-1982

Jack Tworkov, Asheville Art Museum, Tworkov, abstract expressionism, Black Mountain College, 1952 Asheville, NC - The Asheville Art Museum presents Jack Tworkov: Beyond Black Mountain College / Selected Works 1952-1982, March 27-June 14, 2015. The exhibition revisits Tworkov’s affiliation with Black Mountain College and includes a significant survey of the artist’s career including important works spanning three decades from 1952–1982. Opening reception will held on Friday, March 27, 5-7pm and will include a gallery talk by Jason Andrew, curator of the exhibition and manager of the Estate of Jack Tworkov.

Jack Tworkov (1900–1982) is regarded as one of the great Postwar American artists whose gestural paintings, along with those of Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock, swept the New York art scene of the late 1940s and early 1950s and formed the basis for the Abstract Expressionist movement in America.

Jack Tworkov, Wednesday, Tworkov, Asheville Art Museum, Black Mountain College, abstract expressionsim

Tworkov’s reputation as a leading intellectual and founding member of the New York School was well established by the time he arrived to teach painting at Black Mountain College in July 1952. His interdisciplinary attitude and commitment to a balanced exchange of ideas made him one of the most inspiring teachers in the history of the college. While there, he formed lasting relationships with composers John Cage and Stefan Wolpe, choreographer Merce Cunningham and young artists like Fielding Dawson, Dorothea Rockburne and Robert Rauschenberg to name a few.

“My painting is always a work of long progression of action absorbed by time,” Tworkov wrote. This exhibition aims to illustrate this progression beginning with the artist’s time at Black Mountain College and expanding to include three decades of significant works from the artist’s career, with emphasis on the paintings from the 1970s. Descriptive texts, quotes selected from the artist’s journals, accompany each work and offer a first hand account of Tworkov’s ideas and processes.

The exhibition takes a chronological view beginning with a selection from Tworkov’s most celebrated series titled House of the Sun, which first appeared in drawings and small oil paintings made at Black Mountain College in 1952. These intimate gestural works were rooted in the artist’s interest in the theme of the Odyssey—two figures in tangled embrace tumbling through the sky. Wednesday (1959) represents the height of Tworkov’s Abstract Expressionist period.

Never one to settle into a single style, Tworkov challenged himself throughout his five- decade career making important compositional shifts in his work. One such shift, and most relevant to this survey, occurred in the mid 1960s when Tworkov began imposing geometric systems on his compositions which offered a more restrained, disciplined and contemplative approach. “I became fascinated and found in the geometry of a rectangle, a new starting point for composing a painting,” Tworkov wrote. The Fibonacci number system was one such system the artist used to measure and divide his canvases. This is most apparent in Tworkov’s Alternative Series of which two are included in this survey.

Jack Tworkov, Tworkov, Asheville Art Museum, gesture, abstract expressionism

While geometry appears to dominate such works as Q3-72 #4 (1972) and Knight Series #4 (1976), Tworkov uses these systems to enhance, even exaggerate, “the varieties of spontaneous brushing.” A heroic example is the three-panel painting titled Triptych (Q3-75 #1) (1975).

At this point, drawing became critical to the development of the paintings as the artist skillfully drafted works on paper that would translate directly to the canvas. The artist writes, “I wanted, and I hope I arrived at, a painting style in which planning does not exclude intuitive and sometimes random play.”

Compression and Expansion of the Square (1982) is the final work in the exhibition and the last painting created by the artist. Here we see Tworkov flexing not only his intellectual might, but also pushing the very boundaries of the systems he had imposed upon himself as an artist.

For Tworkov, the act of painting was the key to his life work. Whether attacking the canvas with a dramatic brush stroke or with a geometric grid, it is the intention of this exhibition to highlight Tworkov’s historic legacy and moreover his passion for painting.

Jack Tworkov, Tworkov, Asheville Art Museum

Acknowledgements: This exhibition is organized by the Asheville Art Museum and curated by Jason Andrew. Special thanks to Hermine Ford and Helen Tworkov and the Estate of Jack Tworkov. The generosity of exhibition sponsors Jim and Bitsy Powell who made this project possible.  Lenders to the exhibition include the Estate of Jack Tworkov, ACME Fine Art, Boston, Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York, The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, SC, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York. The Estate of Jack Tworkov is represented by Alexander Gray Associates, New York.