Jack Levine and Hyman Bloom: Against the Grain

Sep 18 - Oct 25, 2014
Installation Views
Press release
ACA Galleries is pleased to announce the upcoming exhibition Jack Levine and Hyman Bloom: AGAINST THE GRAIN on view September 18 through October 25, 2014. The exhibition will feature a survey of paintings and works on paper from the 1930s to 1990s from both the artists’ estates and private collections.
Jack Levine (1915-2010) and Hyman Bloom (1913-2009) were close friends who each became a master of a new American realism that blended abstraction and realism.  As Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, of a similar age and background they arrived at their socially conscious art through shared experiences but through different routes of development.
The Great Depression brought the aesthetic controversy of abstraction versus realism into an uneasy resolution.  American Social Realists, many of whom had been modernist painters, believed that the hardships of unemployment, hunger and homelessness were too profound to be depicted through obscure abstractions.  For such artists, a return to realism was the only honest means to portray the struggles of the citizenry.
But “realism” did not mean “traditional”.  The genie of modernism could not be put back into the bottle. Instead, these socially conscious artists created a new realist language; an edgy aesthetic that brought realism and modernist abstract elements into a restless but electrifying visual alliance.
Jack Levine, though deeply influenced by the grandeur of Titian and Velazquez, also admired the harsh drama of the German Expressionists.  In the 1930s, Levine united these influences into grand but scathing portrayals of America’s corrupt political and economic power brokers.
Though the Social Realism Levine practiced in the ’30s remained the foundation of his oeuvre throughout his career, he expanded his vision into more spiritual realms. In these late works, Levine returns to his Jewish roots, using biblical themes as the basis for his penetrating observations of the human condition.
Hyman Bloom’s work evolved into socially aware realism. Originally influenced by America’s early twentieth century avant-garde, Bloom became one of New York’s mid-century abstract painters and was even credited by Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning as the first genuine Abstract Expressionist. His work moved away from pure abstraction into a mystical realism. 
Unlike his former Abstract Expressionist compatriots who were seeking the secrets of the subconscious, Bloom, through the strength of aggressive line and color, was after “the nature of being,” the mystical essence of life. It was through his spirituality that Bloom found his kinship with humanity and its struggles.