Lorser Feitelson
Acrylic on canvas, 1968
60 x 40 inches
Gift of the Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg Feitelson Arts Foundation
© The Feitelson/Lundeberg Art Foundation

In 1948 Lorser Feitelson, a pioneer of reductive abstraction and hard-edge painting, created his Magical Space Forms series using large, flat geometric shapes in bold two- and three-part color schemes. Feitelson relished the dramatic and discordant, often contrasting vibrant colors like red, mauve, hot pink, and chartreuse. This work had a significant impact internationally after it was exhibited in New York and London in 1959. He also had a weekly television program on NBC, “Feitelson on Art,” from 1956 to 1963.

Feitelson’s untitled painting from 1968 is an extension of the simplified shapes and colors of the Magical Space Forms and represents a high point in the development of his late work, which is characterized by a sensuous line. The artist most likely derived the tapered black line that runs vertically down the center of the red rectangle in the middle of the canvas from the figure. In fact, the artist’s sketchbooks reveal how his shapes and lines were often derived from the human figure. He was a lifelong student and collector of Italian Mannerist art of the 16th century, with its sinuously graceful and distorted human figures.

As such, Feitelson’s Line paintings often subtely convey emotion and distilled anatomical references. Here the red rectangle is framed on both sides by black rectangular shapes, which creates an explosive tension between the black and red, or between the container and the contained. But one may also read the sensuous line as the indentation between the buttocks.

Feiltelson’s Line paintings were a unique contribution to international modernism. Two years after completing this untitled painting, such abstract compositional designs became more commonplace. In 1970, Coca Cola adopted the very similar “dynamic contour” design still in use on its Coke Classic cans.


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