Don Gray

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Joseph Solman, Painter of The Ten, ACA Gallery, New York City (1983)

 
 
 Joseph Solman, a member in the late 1930's of the semi-abstractionist group, "The Ten," with Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, Karl Knaths and others, exhibits cityscapes from that period with the bite of realty.
 
 Solman, interested in German Expressionism, and considered by others an expressionist into the early 1950's, states that he was "more abstract than Rothko and Gottlieb" at the time of their association. The power and beauty of color and design of these early works, and their haunting emotional presence, come as a revelation to one unfamiliar with them. "I was interested mainly in design and shape. Color was natural to me; I never thought of being a colorist. But Matisse's color and flat space helped me break through."
 
 Solman's cityscapes combine realism with cubist-surrealist overtones in small, beautifully direct gouaches of signs, store windows and cavernous sidewalk cellars painted on the spot. Their succinctly interlocking geometric designs and very original, very rich color of greyed blues, reds, greens and yellows were turned in the studio into larger, brighter, still richly-colored oils.
 
 Referring to "The Street Painters," the contemporary group of younger, figurative-expressionist artists, Solman says, "I'm one of the original street painters." Indeed, he is a significant middle link in the chain (with Marsh, the Soyers and others) of a robust artistic relationship with urban themes in this century originating with the Ash Can School, and reemerging in the late 1970's.
 
 Solman's 1937 oil, "Garage," a major work featuring a blue truck flanked by two graphic signs -- a symbolic black bulls-eye and pointing hand -- has an impressive density of form, shape and color. Heavy black contour lines, integrated in the broadly painted, jaggedly irregular shapes, are calligraphically and expressively powerful form-building elements that key the compositional framework. They are intrinsic to the artist's style, along with wonderful, unexpected color combinations that, despite his feeling for Matisse, reflect a northern tartness.
 
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