Franz Kline

Cincinnati Art Museum

When Franz Kline’s mature abstractions were first made and shown, from 1950 until 1961 (a year before his death), their painterliness, size, and sheer abstractness were the qualities that most impressed viewers. The paintings seemed to need space to breathe, and in spacious, white-walled galleries, their bold brushstrokes bespoke paint as paint. Most recently, in the first major retrospective of his work since 1968, Kline’s abstractions were placed in a series of small, specially constructed rooms with deep-blue walls, under almost harsh artificial light—a setting that recalled the cramped, badly lit New York studios in which they were painted. This not only forced a more direct and personal response to Kline’s work but also encouraged a more literal interpretation, for the drawings and paintings that comprise this retrospective were grouped according to themes. (The Cincinnati installation

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