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The term ‘expressionism’ refers in general to the deliberate distortion and exaggeration of forms for expressive effect in artworks. It may also be used with reference to particular historical or cultural iterations—as in (most commonly) German Expressionism, which refers to specific artists and practices of the early 20th century (see Expressionism). Both approaches are useful in the context of American art history. For example, the expressive qualities of the work of such 19th-century artists as Albert Pinkham Ryder or George Inness have long been noted in histories of American art and artists. Attention has focused as well on groups of artists active at mid-century in America’s urban centres who adopted the term as a conscious description of themselves and their intentions.

Prior to 1914 Expressionism was understood more or less to be a synonym of Post-Impressionism, the somewhat ambiguous name coined by British art historian Roger Fry to describe a group of mostly French artists including Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Gauguin. In the context of an early appearance in a ...

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Francis Summers

(b Brunswick, ME, May 3, 1961).

American sculptor and painter active in Sweden. He studied at the State University of New York, Purchase, graduating in 1985. His work draws on his experience of working methods in the carpentry business. Unwilling to interfere with the material he chooses to work with, such as kitchen cabinets or unplastered walls, he reframes the work as a kind of pragmatic abstraction. His arrangements of modular furniture stripped of its original function, as in Surface Habitat for Appliance (1997; see 1998 exh. cat., p. 129) closely resemble the work of the De Stijl group, bringing to mind especially the compositions of Piet Mondrian. Ketter’s recreation of dry wall surfaces as paintings, such as his White Wall Painting (1992; see 1995 exh. cat., p. 14) could be described as a reversal of the conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner’s removal of an area of wall surfaces from various gallery sites in 1968...

Article

Francis Summers

(b Jersey City, NJ, 30 July,1948).

American painter. He studied at the School of Visual Arts, New York, from 1975 until 1977. He then went on to the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia. His early paintings were reminiscent of the work of Matisse, with saturated colour fields combined with schematically rendered images, such as his 5 of Spades (1978; see 1997 exh. cat., p. 49), in which a chair, a television set, and a woman are surrounded by wriggling pink abstract forms. His work became far more abstract by the time of Main Event (1981; see 1997 exh. cat., p. 55), where the subject of the picture became the almost brutal working of thick paint over a smooth, patterned ground. Taking the decision-making process of painting as one of his themes, Lasker concentrated on using a system of precisely enlarging small studies. Turning little scribbles and doodles into vast organic, almost faecal, bodies of paint, Lasker emptied the painterly gesture of any heroism. Combining this ironic approach with a strong visual sense and a concern with the devices used in abstract painting (such as the grid, the colour field, the mark and the figure/ground relationship), Lasker produced a form of abstraction that was very knowing of its origins. In ...

Article

(b Dublin, June 30, 1945).

American painter of Irish birth. He moved to England with his family in 1949. Scully studied at Croydon College of Art (1965–7), and then studied and taught at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1967–71), and in the USA at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (1972–3). In 1975 he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship and established his studio in New York, where he settled, becoming an American citizen in 1983. His early paintings were identified with the vigorous debates of the early 1970s about art and language. In Orange Slide (1972) and Amber (1972–3; both London, Mayor Rowan Gal.), elaborately meshed grid structures challenged critical response with their insistent syncopated rhythm and vibrant impact. From the early 1980s Scully’s increasing awareness of the arid effect of formal abstraction led to a simplification of means with greater breadth of handling and pictorial construction. Paintings integrated irregular panels superimposed to produce central motifs of vertical stripes within broad bands of contrasting hues. Scully’s progress was distinguished by a remarkable and sometimes unfashionable commitment to the fundamental concerns of abstract art. In the 1990s and 2000s he explored the interconnectedness of his photographs, paintings, and works on paper, tracing the transformation of shapes, colours, and textures of walls, windows, and bricks in various lights from the photographs into paintings and related works on paper (...