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 Friedel Dzubas  (1915 - 1994)

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Lived/Active: New York/Illinois / Germany      Known for: abstract expressionist painting, illustration

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Friedel Szubas is primarily known as Friedel Dzubas

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Friedel Dzubas (1915-1994)

He was born April 20, 1915 in Berlin and studied at the Prussian Academy of Fine Art and under Paul Klee while in Düsseldorf from 1936 to 1939.  In 1939, Dzubas fled Germany for London and the United States where he later became a citizen.

In 1948, he he answered art critic Clement Greenberg's anonymous advertisement for a summer roommate.  It was the height of the Abstract Expressionist Movement in New York, and through Greenberg Dzubas met Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Adolph Gottlieb and Barnett Newman.  Later, in the early 1950s, Dzubas shared a studio with Helen Frankenthaler, associating with some of the younger generation of abstract painters in New York including Jules Olitski and Kenneth Noland.

In the early 1950s, he began exhibiting his work in New York.  In the 1960s, he started experimenting with color field painting.

Dzubas' mature paintings since the 1960s assimilate his early interest in German Romanticism and Expressionism into post-war American abstraction. "He abandoned oil paint for Magna acrylic in 1965 when he found he could achieve with a brevity of gesture the brilliance and luminosity of oil paint applied in thin veils of color.  He could thus effect the richness and variation of traditional glazed tones using a more expressive, immediate process.  By the early 1980s, Dzubas abandoned his preliminary preparations of sketching and priming, thereby inviting spontaneity and accident into his painting process. Although he typically coated his canvas with a gesso primer before painting, he began to apply it so thinly that the pigment was almost immediately absorbed into the ground, making it impossible for him to revise and rework his compositions.  Dzubas' change in technique reveals a thoroughly modernist sensibility: "I like that risk," he explained. "I think, to a certain degree, I have to make it mechanically difficult and unreliable for myself. If I can predict the effect too much, then I probably am not supposed to be doing it.  I function better if my footing is not too sure, so to speak."  The rich, velvety hues of Grade's reds, greens, and blues appear radiant in places.  Dzubas heightened his color drama -- a drama characterized as quintessentially Baroque by some critics-- by varying the density of his paint.  His rectangular forms appear to ebb and flow in an orchestrated movement across the surface of the picture plane." (Megan Bahr)

A retrospective of Dzubas’ work was shown at the Museum of Fine Art, Houston in 1974 and at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston the following year.  In 1983, Dzubas was honored with an exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Sources include:
Twentieth-Century Art from the Collection of Mary and Jim Patton "Friedel Dzubas", by Megan Bahr, Ackland Museum of Art
www.ackland.org/art/exhibitions/patton/dzubastext.html
www.lorettahoward.com/

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, A-D):
A color-field painter associated with the Abstract Expressionist circle, including Jackson Pollock, Clement Greenberg, and Helen Frankenthaler, Dzubas was integral to the development of the stain painting technique for which Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, and Kenneth Noland became renowned. Born in 1915 in Berlin, Dzubas attended Königstadtische Obrealschule, where his drawing teacher cultivated his interest in art. He also viewed the collection of modern art at the Nationalgalerie and especially liked the work of Eduard Munch and Vincent van Gogh. In 1939 Dzubas, who was working for a Berlin painting company, fled Nazi Germany and settled in New York, where he was employed as a busboy, deliveryman, and house painter. Something of a wanderer, Dzubas’ life would be characterized by frequent moves. In 1940, he went to Chicago to work as a designer, returning to New York in 1945 after another short stint as an advertising art director in Ohio.

Living on West Tenth Street, Dzubas worked as a book designer and became involved in avant-garde artistic and literary circles. In 1948 he met Clement Greenberg who introduced him to Jackson Pollock and Katherine Dreier. That same year he participated in his first group exhibition at Weyhe Gallery. The following year he became a member of the Eight Street Club, an Abstract Expressionist group that included Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Ad Reinhardt among others. While Dzubas’ early paintings evoked Paul Klee and the Surrealist works of William Baziotes, by 1949 he was experimenting with soaking paint into sheets of canvas.

In 1951 Greenberg introduced Dzubas to Helen Frankenthaler, with whom he would share a studio space the following year. In 1952 he received his first solo exhibition at Tibor de Nagy, which was positively received. Dzubas did not create his next major series until 1960, when he began working on large canvases in a black and white calligraphic style. In 1963 he reincorporated color into his compositions employing softer, deeper, hues from mustard to rouge and placing these forms within expanses of white canvas. Around 1968 Dzubas began employing an extreme horizontal format, with canvases several inches high and as much as twenty feet long.

Throughout the sixties and seventies Dzubas was honored with several prestigious teaching appointments and grants, including two Guggenheim fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts Painting Fellowship, and Artist-in-Residence appointments at the Institute for Humanistic Studies in Aspen, Dartmouth College, and Cornell University. He moved to Ithaca, New York in 1969 and would continue to teach at Cornell intermittently through 1974. That same year he had his first museum exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and received a retrospective exhibition from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C in 1983. From 1976 to 1993 he taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Dzubas died in Auburndale, Massachusetts on December 10, 1994.

© Copyright 2008 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from Spanierman Gallery (retired):
A noted figure in the New York School, Friedel Dzubas was associated with the Color Field painting movement in the mid-twentieth century and continued painting until the end of his life. In the 1950s, he was part of the Greenwich Village art scene, and he was was included in the landmark exhibition, Post-Painterly Abstraction, organized by Clement Greenberg for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1964. Working in a lyrical vein, Dzubas created works that were linked in spirit to the contemplative landscapes of the nineteenth-century German painter, Caspar David Friedrich. The New York Times art critic Brian O’Dohery described his art as “a sort of delightful rococo postscript to the baroque thunder of Abstract Expressionism.” [1]

Friedel Dzubas was born in Berlin, Germany. Little is known of his childhood and early artistic training except that he studied under Paul Klee at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, where he absorbed the ideas about color that were central to Klee’s teaching. In 1939, at the height of Nazi Germany, Dzubas fled to the United States. He settled initially in Chicago, where he worked as an illustrator.

By the late 1940s, he had moved to New York City, where he befriended many of the leading young painters of the day. He became close to Jackson Pollock, spending time with him in East Hampton, and he shared a studio with Helen Frankenthaler. In the 1950s, Dzubas painted with broad, painterly swirls that were associated with “mind storms” and sea surges. In the next decade, he created a series of works featuring hard-edged blocks of color, but later returned to a more expressive, spontaneous manner, described as bridging “the contemporary concerns of American abstraction with the European past.” [2]

Friedel Dzubas began exhibiting in the 1950s, starting with a solo show at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1952. He had solo shows subsequently at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1958 and at French and Company, New York, in 1959. In the years that followed, Dzubas had many additional solo exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Düsseldorf, Toronto, and other locations. Retrospectives of his art were held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1974) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1975). Dzubas participated in many important group exhibitions at venues including Leo Castelli Gallery and the Stable Gallery, where he participated in the Ninth Street show annual invitational exhibitions that were held throughout the 1950s. In addition to showing in Post-Painterly Abstraction (1964), he was represented in the Color Field Survey, held in 1975, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Dzubas received Guggenheim Fellowships in 1966 and 1968 and an award from the National Council on the Arts in 1968.

Dzubas taught and lectured at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; the Institute of Humanistic Studies, Aspen, Colorado; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Examples of his works can be viewed in numerous public collections, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; the Georgia Museum of Art, Athens; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; the Lowe Art Museum, Coral Gables, Florida; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; the Newark Museum, New Jersey; the Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey; the Portland Art Museum, Oregon; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.

LNP

©The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery, LLC and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery, LLC. It may not be reproduced without written permission from Spanierman Gallery, LLC nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery, LLC.

1. Brian O'Doherty, “Tumult of Streets,” New York Times, November 9, 1963, 21.

2. Michael Kimmelman, “Friedel Dzubas, 79, Abstract Painter of New York School,” New York Times, December 14, 1994.

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