Mark Tobey: Paintings (1920-1960)

October 27, 1994 - December 17, 1994

Yoshii Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings by the American artist Mark Tobey (1890-1976). The selection of thirty-seven paintings, created over four decades, makes this the most comprehensive overview of the artist’s work in New York since his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1962. Drawn from both public and private collections in Europe and America, the exhibition includes two works from the Seattle Museum of Art, Portrait of Paul McCool, 1925, and Middle West, 1929; the Museum of Modern Art’s Edge of August, 1953; as well as numerous examples from the Meditative and Above the Earth series.

Paul Cummings, who is currently preparing Mark Tobey’s catalogue raisonnĂ©, has graciously contributed an essay to the accompanying catalogue. As Mr. Cummings writes, ” By developing various arbitrary interstices he [Tobey] presents a vibrant surface suggesting the motif is a fragment formed in infinity… to enlarge the small and to reduce the vast to human scale became intrinsic in his work.” The catalogue also includes the recollections of the artist and Tobey’s longtime friend, Paul Jenkins. What results is a portrait of Tobey in both his public and private lives.

Informed by his incessant traveling and his involvent with Eastern schools of thought, Tobey draws on various eclectic sources to formulate his unique visual language. The paintings range from the symbolism of the early Pink Flowers, 1928, and Tobey’s fascination with calligraphic signs in Extensions of Baghdad, 1944, to the acute, almost obsessive sense of touch found in his “white writing.” The luminous and fluid line characteristic of white writing can be found in works like Broadway Norm, 1935, and Crystallization, 1944. The white writing works synthesize Tobey’s earlier experimentations in Arabic, Japanese and Chinese script, with an emphasis on detail to communicate a vision, both personal and universal. In the artist’s own words, “My sources of inspiration have gone from those of my native Middle West to those of microscopic worlds.”