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American Paintings - before 1950

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Circus Forms

20th century
152 cm x 101 cm (59 13/16 in. x 39 3/4 in.)

Carl Robert Holty (Freiburg, Germany, 1900 - 1973, New York City) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Oil on masonite
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1968
               Accession Number:                G1968.75             
Object Description: Carl Holty's charismatic abstract shapes in Circus Forms dance around the painting with playful lines, evoking and recreating a circus performance. Using a subject that appealed to his realist contemporaries, Holty demonstrates the possibilities of abstraction to represent subjects from daily life. Holty was a proponent of geometric abstraction and one of the founders of the American Abstract Artists, a group established in 1936. Holty and the geometric abstractionists rejected surrealism and cubism, instead creating abstract compositions with flat, geometric forms. He often incorporated biomorphic shapes, such as the three major black and yellow forms in this work, to suggest the figure while still working within a geometric vocabulary. Holty was constantly trying to break away from what he called "the old spatial systems." His abstract works lack spatial certainty, allowing shapes to float and interact and providing visual dynamism and varying interpretations.

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