Rolph Scarlett's "Abstraction"

November 24, 2012 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Rolph Scarlett's art work defines early American abstractionism and his work is heavily collect by the Guggenheim. The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens holds this famous piece "Abstraction" in their permanent collection.

One of the modern pieces in The Cummer’s permanent collection is, Abstraction by Rolph Scarlett. This piece, like many of his other pieces, exemplifies Scarlett's love of abstraction by capturing the artist's bold use of rhythmic forms and exquisite range of color displays across the composition. He favored refined and rhythmic combinations of shapes and zigzagging forms, in lieu of recognizable subject matter.  Scarlett honed his sensitive feel for bodies in space and capitalized on his trademark use of bright, vivacious colors into accomplished, perfectly harmonized geometric works. He soon morphed these hard-edged forms into a nuanced expressionistic abstraction, which seems to be populated by dancing forms that animate the canvases.

Scarlett was a Non-Objective modernist artist known for his abstracted paintings of geometric forms and design. Always experimenting during his career, Scarlett employed a wide ranging color palette and visually graphic elements in much of his work. His work has included elements of Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Geometric Abstraction, and Non-Objective painting. Scarlett also expressed his love of music in his artwork by employing rhythmic wave forms, seemingly vibrating lines and titles that inferred harmonious or “symphonic” content.        

A native of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, Scarlett was blessed with a keen eye for form and design. In addition to being an acclaimed abstract artist, Scarlett was also active as a theatrical designer, industrial designer and maker of sculptural jewelry. He turned to abstraction after meeting the Swiss artist Paul Klee in 1919.  Five years later he was working abstractly using cubist shapes and spatial relations as well as freely applied areas of pure color. Scarlett’s work was further influenced when he viewed first-hand the paintings of Vassily Kandinsky in 1936, at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. Scarlett’s work gained the attention of Hilla Rebay and Solomon Guggenheim, who were organizing the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (now the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum). In the ensuing decade, his involvement with the museum deepened. He was hired as a lecturer and much of his work from the period was collected by Guggenheim for the museum’s collection and included in many of its exhibitions.  By the middle of the last century, his paintings were among those that defined early American abstraction.

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