1940's - From Picasso and Juan Gris to Abstract Expressionism
Portrait of the Artist, 1948.
Some of these works are unlocated while others are in private collections.
These photos were from 1948 color photos owned by Michael West. THESE PAINTINGS ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR SALE, BUT ARE SHOWN TO FAMILIARIZE YOU WITH HER HEROIC 40'S STYLE. The PHOTOS are the only living record of her 1940s work.This very important decade shows the transition from Cubist abstraction to her highly-charged expressionist paintings which are quite unique. Michael West loved the work of the Spanish Cubist painter,Juan Gris. She has made copy and change paintings of Juan Gris subjects. However, Richard Pousette-Dart, a close friend, urged her to get rid of them. He also had similar beginnings - a lyrical cubist style. He was another important catalyst. She referred to him as the White Mystic, also the title of her poem to this important spiritual artist.
Portrait of the Artist by Richard Pousette-Dart, c.1945/6 copyright The Richard Pousette Dart Foundation.
After the cubist period, her style changed dramatically and her work was on a path not unlike Jackson Pollock's. Bold, expressive and multi-layered. She too had an energy that I do not think can be compared to any other artist of the period, man or woman! Richard Pousette-Dart realized the affect that Jackson Pollock's ideas and work had on Michael West "I think you like his (Jackson Pollock's) work better than mine!". She did. She was actually on a very similar path to Jackson Pollock. Both had incredible energy which emanated from the canvas. The paintings were literally breathing. Not unlike alchemy, both Jackson Pollock and Michael West made "energy visible".
It is important to understand the beginnings of the Abstract Expressionist Movement. The World War just ended. Many of the artists in NY had a great appreciation for Europe's great innovators, Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso. Michael West wrote these words on Armistice Day, 1945, from her 5th Avenue studio. "As I write these words - a great parade of tanks and guns roar under my 5th Avenue window - the noise is deafening - hysterical - as the planes soar over head the birds soar - fly wildly about - some below some above the planes in the sky - it is a grey, cloudy, moody spring day - the feel of spring in the air is too soon - queer - it's a Cezanne. This glorious roar - this beautiful abstract scene of people lined all along the curb - looking up - at these guns pointed toward the sky - is the new poetry the new art the new peace - which for a moment - is actually seen and heard - like a great love never dying - the triumph of active mysticism realized - for a moment - good surpasses evil. Good conquers even in this world. Evil is too slow - as usual." Her words are chilling because she has brought me and hopefully you, to the core of life. This sums up the jubilance and ecstaticness that many artists felt just after the war! Artists are our most sensitive seers. So much can be learned from them. The artists that were to become the New York School had this feeling inside. All the ingredients for a rennaisance was in the pot. "Cezanne conceived things in movement rather than still, like the Old Masters did. He breaks down a space or breaks up a space rather than show the beauty of it". I think this is the key to understanding the new movement that helped make NY the center of the art world.
Hans Hofmann, possibly the greatest 20th Century art teacher - taught many of these new artists. If he wasn't their teacher, many of the artists heard about his theories. Cezanne, Picasso and other European modernists, Hofmann, Gorky, Graham, the end of the war, the meteoric rise of Jackson Pollock, community, and what Michael West called "the new poetry" were all catalysts.