Ivan Albright, The Vermonter (If Life Were Life, There Would Be No Death), 1966-1977
I once asked Ray Yoshida, this would have been back in the early 80s, who he thought the best painter to come out of Chicago had been and he answered, “Ivan Albright.” I’d recently done a research paper for my art history class where we were required to write on our favorite painting by a Chicago painter. I chose the painting below by Albright. One can get a small sense of the visual feast and labyrinthine complexity of the painting as a whole by looking at the detail below it.
That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do, The Door
Detail from The Door The Window (Poor Room–There is No Time, No End, No Yesterday, No Tomorrow, Only the Forever, and Forever and Forever Without End), 1942-43, 1948-55, 1957-63
Self-Portrait in Georgia, 1967, 1967-68, oil on panel
I particularly like this one because you can see Albright lampooning the Hans Hoffmann push pull abstraction that had become the prevailing American ideology at the time he painted his portrait. He painted the above work at the height of the dominance of American painting by the edicts handed down primarily by Clement Greenberg to artists like Kenneth Noland that painting be flat and abstract, with not a trace of figurative reference. It’s clear that Albright is mordantly commenting on this kind of simplistic designer abstraction–note the Noland targets but also the dumb paint handling of greys in the shirt, which clearly reference Johns. Johns, of course, was not only a painter of targets but preferred turgid grays and the kind of insensitive paint handling that Albright accurately ridicules when painting the shirt. It’s a hilariously knowing send up, contrasting the extraordinarily accomplished painting of the head with the ham-handed amateurishness that was the signature style of not only Johns but so many subsequent painters.
Appears the Man, lithograph, 1980
Ivan Albright, Self-Portrait Smoking
Ivan Albright, Self Portrait (No. 20), 1983