Oscar Bluemner was an artist of the 20th Century who was part of the Alfred Stieglitz Gallery. Stieglitz helped nurture artists from that genre such as Georgia O’Keefe.
The Whitney is showing is retrospective of the artist’s career. He was an architect by training and grew into painting. You can see the work of an architect in his work. The paintings are bold in color and the buildings are symetrical and porportioned. What I found the most interesting is what is surrounding each building. They are surrounded by nature, trees or grass. The trees are more free form. The sun is shining and intense. The grass is moving. The branches look as if they are growing. All of this around a very simple solid colorful structure.
Bluemner’s techniques change over time but his overall work doesn’t. His work gets less structured but it really keeps his roots from beginning to end. Some of the paintings look like what people are doing in photoshop, duplicates of the same thing again and again in one picture. He was obviously ahead of his time. It is as if nobody has new ideas, they just keep recreating themselves.
There is one self portrait which is in character with his work. Almost a puzzle put together, very architectural.
His work certainly deserves a place in history among the group of early 20th Century artists but I am not sure I would not say that his work establishes him as a leader of the group.
Stieglitz today could be Mary Boone or Gagosian. They are gallery owners making marks in the art world. We will look back at the artists that they represented but only a few will be leaders of the pack. Bluemner was part of the pack but he wasn’t a leader.