Wednesday, March 27, 2019

MAY (D.A.P.) Modern Mystic: The Art of Hyman Bloom, rediscovery of a modern master

"Even at a time, when an expressionism infused with surrealism was producing some unsettling images in American art, Bloom's work was unique.  It never gave the sense--as expressionism intends to eventually do--of an art that has strayed beyond its psychic roots.  Matter and means in Bloom's paintings are completely of a piece, fueled by the same moral urgency. The results are not always easy to take, and although Bloom had gained visibility by the late 40s, with work shown by MoMA, at the Whitney and at Durlacher Gallery in New York, his insistence upon using images that are psychologically extreme or unsightly doubtless reduced the chance of building a wide audience. One may even speculate that exactly the conceptual ingredients de Kooning and Pollock admired in his work--its combination  of barely suppressed violence and moral gravity--were couched in a vision too idiosyncratic and adamant to fit the intellectual high ground the new art was seeking."--
Holland Cotter, Art in America

Hyman Bloom, a well known artist in his time, faded from public sight, though he produced wonderful work to the end of his life. This happens more than you think, that a person known in art history for a time "disappears." Do they die young? Have work that fell out of fashion?' Live in a place or manner inaccessible to the national "art scene?" Many women artists, renowned in their time, disappear because their work was purchased by private collections--not museums. So they did not exist to those writing art history. 

Born in Latvia, Hyman Bloom immigrated with his family to the United States in 1920, escaping anti-Semitic persecution. He lived his entire life in the Boston area, but his work is held in many public collections: the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Willem de Kooning hailed him as “the first Abstract Expressionist" and he showed with artists of that movement, but Bloom's purpose had little in common with Clement Greenberg's theoretical "modernism." And, though his works might have related themes, each was a unique exploration. 

Hyman Bloom was a searcher, like William Blake, Albert Pinkham Ryder and Odilon Redon. Bloom strove for the moment when, in his own words, “the mood is as intense as it can be made.” His work, influenced by his Jewish heritage (whose impression on his painting he described as a “weeping of the heart”) and Eastern religions, touches on many of the themes of 20th-century culture and art: the body, its immanence and transience, abstraction and spiritual mysticism. 

Bloom was admired by leading figures in the art world of his time, such as Dorothy Miller, the first professionally trained curator at The Museum of Modern Art. She heard about his work and went to Boston to acquire some work from the reclusive artist. He didn't like the "art scene" or to socialize. He stayed local, in Boston and his visions changed over time. From the vibrant colors of his oils, like "Apparition of Danger to large drawings of nature.  

What about the visions? His imagery of flesh at top, "Apparition of Danger" above to "Landscape"
the black and white drawing below. Some paintings have mystic symbols, Rosicrucian, Judaic, maps and eyes, surprising and beautiful. 

With D.A.P.'s new publication MODERN MYSTIC: The Art of Hyman Bloom (May) and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts exhibition (July), this great 20th century artist will be introduced to audiences who may never have encountered his original and beautiful visions.

The book’s illustrations include ten previously unpublished masterworks, plus images of the figure, powerful and provocative as the paintings by Francis Bacon that were once exhibited alongside them. 

I was intrigued and awed by his intricate explorations. Rarely do you see art with such strange coherence, verging on the profound. Spiritual, personal, this work needs to be seen. 

For more information.