b. 1926, United States
American painter, 1926-2019.
Born in New Orleans in 1926 and raised in Chicago, Clark emerged in the 1950s as a pioneer of the New York School. Over the course of seven decades, his experimentations with pure color, abstract form, and the seductive materiality of paint have yielded an oeuvre of remarkable originality, extending the language of American abstraction. Clark’s breakthroughs have an important place in the story of modern and contemporary art: in the late 1950s he was the first American artist credited with exhibiting a shaped canvas, an innovation that continues to reverberate today. His search for a means to breach the limitations of the conventional paintbrush led him to use a push broom to apply pigment to canvas laid out on the floor. Defying the discreet categories of gestural and hard-edged abstraction, Clark has masterfully interwoven these approaches into a unique form of expressionism.
After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago and L’Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris, Clark continued to live and work in France, absorbing the influence of such European modernists as Nicolas de Staël, Pierre Soulages, and Jean Riopelle. He became a member of a social and intellectual circle of American expatriate artists and writers, including fellow African-American creatives Beauford Delaney, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Barbara Chase-Riboud. Clark settled in New York in 1957, where over the ensuing decade he became part of the city’s dynamic downtown scene and a co-founder of the Brata Gallery, an artist-run cooperative among the Tenth Street galleries of the East Village. From the late 1960s until the last decade, Clark split his time between New York and Paris, traveling extensively to other locales from Mexico and Brazil to North Africa and Greece. In 2019, while living in Detroit, Clark passed away at the age of 93. ‘No matter what I do,’ the artist said, ‘there’s not a day that I’m not an artist.’
[Biography from Hauser & Wirth]