New York

Al Held

Kasmin | 293 Tenth Avenue

Except for a fleeting moment during the heyday of New York abstract painting, Al Held never quite fit in. A contrarian by nature, Held was a Bronx hoodlum and perpetual truant who wound up in the Navy at age sixteen because, as he speculated in a 1975 interview, his father was “terribly desperate” to get rid of him. He later embraced leftist politics and took classes at the Art Students League, toiling for years before achieving some repute in the early ’50s. His eureka moment came later that decade, when in painter Sam Francis’s studio he discovered acrylic, better suited than oil to his attaining the graphic precision he would pursue for the remainder of his career. In the ’80s, amid a whirl of rhetoric on the medium’s irrelevance, the acerbic Held made paintings as big and bombastic as ever—paintings that barely fit on gallery walls and had to be stored in his upstate New York studio:

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and receive the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the February 2009 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.