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Press Release

Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to present a survey of paintings by Morris Louis. The exhibition will be on view from June 23 through August 30, 2017.

“It could be argued that Louis’s synthesis of the separable elements of painting is the most complete and complex to date; and that the veils announce a new phase in the history of art.”
– Barbara Rose, “Quality in Louis,” Artforum, Oct. 1971

Before his untimely death at the age of 50 in 1962, Morris Louis painted more than 650 canvases. Working on the floor in his small suburban dining room studio, Louis developed his particular style of staining unprimed canvas with Magna acrylic by pouring the liquid pigment onto the canvas and directing it to run across, down, and around the canvas. Art historian and critic Barbara Rose acknowledged Louis’s importance in the history of painting by pointing to his pivotal series of “veils,” so called due to the curtain-like washes of gossamer color Louis laid onto the canvases. Along with his veils, Louis’s unfurled and stripe series mark crucial moments in his oeuvre, in the evolution of Color Field painting, and in American painting more broadly.

Drawing upon the twin influences of Jackson Pollock’s unprecedented athleticism and all-over composition and Helen Frankenthaler’s groundbreaking use of pigment to stain the canvas in her 1952 painting Mountains and Sea, Louis was driven to find pathways that would lead to new ways to paint. While Pollock put distance between his brush and the canvas by dripping the paint from the end of his brushes and Frankenthaler combined direct staining with traditional paint application, Louis eradicated tools from his process altogether, pouring his pigment onto unprimed canvas then using gravity to direct the paint over the canvas as it absorbed into the warp and weft of the fabric.

Though Louis pursued a pure abstraction unhindered by associations to anything beyond the picture, the veils recall formations of land affected by the movement of water: rivulets and channels of running water, erosion, fluvial planes. The unfurled and stripe series possess a boldness and immediacy that achieves full non-representation. This exhibition will look at the various periods of Louis’s short but extraordinary career with paintings that have been largely unseen on the west coast.