Skip to main content

He was a leading member of the generation that sought to recast abstraction in cooler, more analytic terms after the turmoil of Abstract Expressionism.

Jack Youngerman, a French-trained American artist whose profuse invention of abstract shapes in two and three dimensions opened up a new aesthetic vocabulary in the period immediately after Abstract Expressionism, died on Wednesday in Stony Brook, N.Y. He was 93.

Janet Goleas, his studio manager and archivist, said the cause was complications of a fall.

Mr. Youngerman, like many American artists in the late 1940s, studied in Paris on the G.I. Bill. Unlike them, he remained there, developing a distinctive style of abstraction based on organic shapes, drawing inspiration from the woodblock prints of Jean Arp and Wassily Kandinsky and, perhaps most decisively, the ink drawings of Henri Matisse.

Mr. Youngerman’s fluid, emblem-like shapes embraced flatness and frontal views, leaping forward to meet the viewer with bold primary colors. The shapes, vaguely floral or leafy, flirted with representation but remained aloof, floating like mysterious essences in a timeless spirit world.

As he wrote in Art in America in 1968: “We are immersed in the powerful and autonomous effigies of the world before these forms are possessed and diminished by names and uses, the name pre-empting the form. Painting involves the restoring of the image to that original primacy.”


Continue reading the main story

Encouraged by Betty Parsons, New York’s premier dealer in American avant-garde art at the time, Mr. Youngerman returned to the United States in 1956. He soon emerged as a leading exponent of post-painterly abstraction, a catchall term describing the impulse of the generation seeking to recast abstraction in cooler, more analytic terms after the Sturm und Drang of Abstract Expressionism. . . .

Comments are closed.