From Destruction To RebirthThe Intensely Personal Art Of Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner is both a beloved Hamptons and International icon, an artist who went from trading paintings for groceries at the local store to having her work sell at auction in 2019, The Eye Is the First Circle, for $11.7 million. The Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in the Springs remains a living monument to both her and her husband Jackson Pollock who bought the house in 1945 and established an epicenter of modern and abstract expressionist art. She began using a small bedroom there as her studio then moved to the barn after Pollock’s death in 1956, a metaphor of her own growth of an artist not in his shadow.
Krasner (1908 – 1984) was born in Brooklyn to Russian Jewish immigrants who were escaping anti-Semitism. She knew from a young age that art was her passion and studied at the Women’s Art School of Cooper Union and National Academy of Design. She went on to study in 1937 with Hans Hofmann who was considered the most progressive teacher in New York. By design, Krasner did not have a signature style and went from representational to cubism to abstract. She was a fan of Matisse and Mondrian and was known to use layer upon layer in her work.
In an interview in the Washington Post Krasner stated, “When I see a blank canvas my preoccupation is with the entire surface of it… You try to make as live a contrast as you can to bring that two-dimensional surface into vibration and life.”
A review in Artforum said, “All these works manifest an intensely personal, highly distinctive kind of handwriting, a calligraphy of the soul.” One can see the range of this internal dialogue from perfectly ordered mosaics to pastoral nature to jagged edges. Art critic Barbara Rose who curated Krasner’s work for exhibits said, “She is one of the very few women who really expressed violence and aggression in her work.” Krasner’s work feels visceral and provokes emotional responses.
The Hamptons International Film Festival which runs this year from October 10 – 14 has chosen Lee Krasner’s Vernal Yellow from her Solstice Series 1980 for their poster art. The painting uses cut-out fragments of figurative charcoal from the 1930s, as well as non-representational lithographs. The choice seemed natural for the festival which reflects back at its 26 years. Krasner herself described her use of collage as a way to revisit and refocus, “I go back on myself, into my own work, destroy it in some way and come up with a new thing… this seems to be a work process of mine… it’s a form of clarification… a form of growth.”
HIFF Executive Director Anne Chaisson comments, “Lee’s artwork continued to expand and fascinate throughout her life. I was extremely attracted to her later work titled Solstice and a particular painting Vernal Yellow. During the mid-fifties, Lee created a number of collaged paintings using drawings and paintings she had previously discarded. Twenty-five years later she used the same technique for her last series. Vernal Yellow is from that series. For this work, she integrated cut-out fragments of figurative charcoals from her art school days in the 1930s, as well as non-representational lithographs into the canvas. I loved that she infused her earliest artwork into her last series, thus giving us a complete artist representation of whole self – a look into who she was at the beginning of her career and who she became at the end.”