Sunday, September 06, 2015

Milton Resnick

The painter Milton Resnick (1917-2004) was one of the first generation of New York Abstract-Expressionist painters— a contemporary of Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and the rest— and the longest-lived of them. I was exposed to him through my large-scale painting professor at the University of Oregon, Frank Okada, who lived in New York in the 50s, and met some of those painters. In the late 40s Resnick had an almost Picasso/Braque like relationship with de Kooning— they were close personally, and produced work in a very similar vein. Late-cubist, largely black and white, abstract paintings with collage-like jumbles of biomorphic forms, using housepaint as well as artist's oils. Okada felt Resnick had better design sense, and I think he was right.

Untitled, 1948— Milton Resnick

Painting, 1948 — Willem de Kooning

These paintings launched de Kooning's career, while Resnick continued to struggle. Fame is still something you have to cultivate, and apparently he was not about that, or was not as successful at it as were some of his peers. Okada seemed to think he was personally difficult. He also did not settle on a personal, iconic image the way the others did— you could call it a formula with some of them— and his work continued to develop independent of trends in theory, criticism, and art consumption. Within a few years he was painting richly textured, Monet-like abstracts, and a few years later the scene had moved on to something else entirely. By the time these videos were made, Resnick's selling prices are such that he could raise $30,000 to buy a building by hustling up the sale of a painting. De Kooning paintings (he had died only a couple of years earlier, in 1997) were selling for millions of dollars, and for tens of millions a few years later.

With that, here are a couple of cool videos of Resnick working, and talking about working:

At the beginning of that second video is the painter Pat Passlof (1928-2011), who was married to Resnick, and was also great, and relatively little-known. She was a student of de Kooning's and did some very good, similar work herself. This picture is completely derivative of de Kooning's and Resnick's work of a couple of years earlier, but it's still great— there are a lot of bad paintings by second and third tier New York artists of this era, so this is a very exciting picture for how good it is:

Safe Arrival, 1950— Pat Passlof

One more video of a q&a with Resnick:

Take a look at some more of his work.

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