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Friedel Dzubas

(1915 - 1994)
Celebrated for his monumental color abstractions, German-American artist Friedel Dzubas’s (1915–1994) unique approach to painting straddles high modernist color field abstraction and traditional easel painting. Working on canvases tacked to the floor, Dzubas nonetheless retained both the conventional gesso ground and centered dramatic interest of the portable easel picture. By 1965, Dzubas had adopted Magna mineral spirit acrylics as his medium, yet continued to abjure the pouring, sponging, and spraying strategies thoroughly worked in water-based acrylics by his contemporaries Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and Helen Frankenthaler. Developed in the 1940s and used by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, and Morris Louis, Magna mineral spirit acrylics required the artist to work rapidly. First worked out as small sketches in magna on canvas, Dzubas then scaled these sketches up to monumental size. Many of these sketches survive and are now prized as independent works of art.

The dynamic interrelationships of Dzubas’s signature color lozenges—horizontal, vertical, diagonal phalanxes—are given directional propulsion by dry-brushed feathering at one end, while loosely brushed or pounced surrounds stabilize their innate motility. Dzubas aligns his colors either as complementary pairs or in analogous relationships, inserting a sudden staccato of hue that interrupts the otherwise overriding consonance of his color schemes. Apprenticed as a teenager to a wall decorations firm in Berlin, his sole formal artistic training —despite early claims to have studied briefly with Paul Klee—consisted in the art of fresco and other forms of wall decoration. The matte finish of his surfaces, a feature of Magna mineral spirit acrylics, emulates the matte plaster surfaces of the frescoes he admired by artists ranging from Giotto to Giambattista Tiepolo.

Patricia L Lewy, PhD
Director, Friedel Dzubas Estate Archives