Mark Tobey: Threading Light traces the evolution of the artist’s groundbreaking style and his significant yet under-recognized contributions to abstraction and mid-century American modernism. With 70 paintings spanning the 1920s through 1970, Threading Light surveys the breadth of Tobey’s oeuvre and reveals the extraordinarily nuanced yet radical beauty of his work. The first comprehensive retrospective of Tobey’s work in two decades, Threading Light provides a thoughtful re-appraisal of Tobey’s work.
One of the foremost American artists to emerge from the 1940s, a decade that saw the rise of abstract expressionism, Mark Tobey (1890–1976) is recognized as a vanguard figure whose “white-writing” anticipated the formal innovations of New York School artists such as Jackson Pollock. When Tobey first displayed his paintings composed of intricate, pale webs of delicate lines in New York in 1944, he generated much interest with his daring “all-over” compositions that eliminated narrative and three-dimensional space but retained references to the human figure.
His unique calligraphic renderings largely invoke the city and are the outcome of a lyrical integration of both Eastern and Western visual histories that range from Chinese scroll painting to European cubism. This unique form of abstraction was the synthesis of the artist’s experiences living in Seattle and New York, his extensive trips to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kyoto, and Europe, and his conversion to the Bahá'í faith. Tobey stated, his work was not bound by a geography or a country but aimed for a “higher state of consciousness.” It bridges the international dimensions of midcentury modernism, a connection that has been previously unexplored in the discourse on postwar art.
Mark Tobey: Threading Light is organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts and is guest curated by Debra Bricker Balken. The exhibition will open at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy, on May 5 and run through September 11, 2017, before opening at the Addison.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether you go or not, Mark Tobey: Threading Light is the first comprehensive English-language monograph on Mark Tobey in forty years. Surveying the artist’s career with works ranging from the 1920s to 1970, this fully illustrated volume reveals the extraordinarily nuanced yet radical beauty of Tobey’s painting, affirming his significant role in the development of abstraction.