Richard Pousette-Dart: an overlooked figure of Abstract Expressionism celebrated with new exhibition

Within the Room (1942) Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

With their bold colors, encrusted surfaces and luminous orbs, his paintings don’t so much hang on the wall as float in front of it. – Roberta Smith, New York Times, 2007

Working in New York in the 1940s, Richard Pousette-Dart (1916–1992) created beautiful, colourful, layered paintings, characterised by his formal explorations of textural handling and built-up surfaces, as well as experimenting with drawing, photography and sculpture.

Beginnings, at Kettles Yard, Cambridge, is the first solo exhibition of his work in the UK, inspired by research exploring the friendship and transatlantic correspondence of the artist with Kettles Yard creator Jim Ede.

A key, yet often overlooked, figure of Abstract Expressionism and the New York School, which transformed American art in the post-war years, Pousette-Dart’s contemporaries included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Willem de Kooning. Deeply influenced by Oriental philosophy, Transcendentalism and Native American art, his style changed throughout his career.

The majority of works on display have been borrowed from US museums and collections, and have not previously been seen in this country. The exhibition is also accompanied by a publication reflecting new research into the life and work of Pousette- Dart and his significant contribution to American art in the 20th Century.

Born in Minnesota in 1916, Pousette-Dart was the son of a painter and a poet and musician. Largely self-taught, he worked in New York in the 1940s where he worked with sculpture, painting and photography. He later taught at a number of universities and his students included Christopher Wool and Ai Weiwei.

Beginnings is on show at Kettles Yard, Cambridge from 23 October 2018 until 6 January 2019.

Gothic Garden (c. 1948-52) The Richard Pousette-Dart Estate.

Gothic Garden (c. 1948-52) The Richard Pousette-Dart Estate.

Untitled (1940), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Untitled (1940), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Page from Notebook B-114 (Knights of Pythias) c. 1940s The Richard Pousette-Dart Estate.

Page from Notebook B-114 (Knights of Pythias) c. 1940s The Richard Pousette-Dart Estate.

Untitled (The Web, and Wall Sculpture) 1950, The Richard Pousette-Dart Estate.

Untitled (The Web, and Wall Sculpture) 1950, The Richard Pousette-Dart Estate.

Nightscape (c. 1948), J & J Collection.

Nightscape (c. 1948), J & J Collection.