Seeing a group of truly fine paintings straight out the best of the Abstract Expressionist era, one might be forgiven for wondering - why was Michael Corinne West forgotten? The answer says everything about art world biases and blindness half a century ago: West was a woman. With colleagues such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and overshadowed by her friend Arshile Gorky, West suffered the fate of a woman of that time. No matter how talented, she was invisible in the mid-century man\'s world. Based on what we see here, had West been a man, he would have been ranked among the founders of the New York School.
She took Hoffman\'s combination of Cubism and Expressionism and by the mid-Forties moved to total abstraction completely committed to expressionism. At the same time that Pollock was edging towards his drip phase, West was using metallic paints along with traditional oils, applied swiftly and thickly. Later her canvases were punctuated with drips and blotches and squeezes of paint, but she always retained the underlying Cubist grid as the armature of her all-over slashes of color. The marks convey the anguish of the Cold War era, as do the preference for blacks, dark browns, deep solemn reds, sword colored metals all laid down in great whacks of frustrated strokes. The paintings are all dark and full of suffering; only occasionally does yellow glimmer through, sometimes a blue. When she forayed into stained painting, West never went big and expanded into an optical field. She always obeyed the edges and allowed the mid-sized canvases to breath and lay bare beneath the thick strands of solid paint, the slathered strokes, and the delicately textured patches. She allowed the shape of the support to discipline her free handling.
Published courtesy of ArtSceneCal ©2010