This eye-opening volume from longtime curator April Kingsley explores the many guises, transformations, and incarnations of Figurative Expressionism in America. An important movement in postwar American painting, Figurative Expressionism is art at a high excitement level, enjoyable for the sheer love of paint as well as for the way the figure is handled. Absorbed with finding imagery in the process of painting, artists like Grace Hartigan, Lester Johnson, Robert De Niro Sr., Philip Guston, Robert Beauchamp, and Richard Diebenkorn are just a few of the individuals recognized herein. Kingsley deftly navigates major influences, particularly Hans Hofmann, whose spatial concepts, love of pain, bravura ability to handle it, and habit of working from a model or motif had a great impact on these artists. Likewise, in the wake of Willem de Kooning’s 1953 exhibition showcasing his Women paintings, his shift between abstraction and figuration sparked controversy and led painters like Guston, Hartigan, and De Niro to reconsider the incorporation of the figure. With special attention to the emergence of a New York style of painting, Emotional Impact captures the group’s robust, energetic style and explores its origins and evolution in vivid detail.
April Kingsley is Emeritus Curator at the Kresge Art Museum with responsibility for Modern and Contemporary Art. Prior to this, she was a freelance curator, author, and art critic based in New York City.