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Untitled, 1954

Emerson Woelffer

American, 1914-2003
Gouache and/or tempera on various paper collage elements on a heavier wove-screen paper
14-1/2 x 12-1/2 in (36.8 x 31.8 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Ynez Johnston
© 2011 Estate of Emerson Woelffer, Hackett Mill Gallery

Not on view

Although Emerson Woelffer studied art in an academic setting for only a brief time, the Chicago-born artist went on to have a long, influential career as a professor of art. He taught at the New Bauhaus School in Chicago and the venerable Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and eventually made his way to Los Angeles, where he made a lasting impression on the students at the Chouinard Art Institute. In 1954 he taught at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and it was during his tenure there when he completed this collage. By this time, Woelffer had been shaped by the tenets of the Surrealists; he was drawn to their improvisational methods but insisted that “Surrealism was a state of mind, not a style.” As in many of his mixed-media works on paper, here he layers haphazardly torn bits of brightly colored paper with splashes of bold brushstrokes. These gestural compositions of pigment and pulp presage the Abstract Expressionists, who would shortly make their mark on the American art scene.

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