Just In: Dramatic Nathan Oliveira Painting
Oliveira (1928â€“2010) was a member of the San Francisco Bay Area group of figurative artists, which emerged as a counterpoint to Abstract Expressionism on the west coast in the 1950s. It is thought that the artistâ€™s direction can be attributed to the influence of the famed German Expressionist artist Max Beckmann, with whom Oliveira studied at Mills College in Oakland in 1950. Oliveira went on to study fine art at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, where he graduated with a bachelorâ€™s degree in 1951 and a masterâ€™s degree the following year.
Crossing the line between figuration and abstraction, Oliveiraâ€™s loosely-painted works often depict lone figures or animals in landscapes. This enigmatic choice of subject matter imbued his work with a mystical air, which is heightened by the artistâ€™s suggestive mark-making and atmospheric use of color and light. Oliveira worked across a wide variety of media and resisted easy categorization, stating, â€śIâ€™m not part of the avant-garde. Iâ€™m part of the garde that comes afterwards, assimilates, consolidates, refines.â€ť
With its central abstract figure and mysterious, cloudy backdrop, Untitled, Standing Figure #1Â (1990) is a classic example of Oliveiraâ€™s oeuvre. A large-scale oil on canvas painting, it features the artistâ€™s signature thick brushstrokes and brilliant reds and pinks billowing to form an image reminiscent of a turbulent sky at sunset. This dramatic work is suffused by a sense of existential angst that bears comparisons to the depictions of the human form by such artists as Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti. The intensity of the ghostly nude, with her ominously effaced visage, is juxtaposed with a glimpse of calm horizon evident at the bottom left of the picture.
Oliveiraâ€™s work can be found in prominent collections including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco; San Jose Museum of Art; List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge; Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase and Tate, London.
Untitled, Standing Figure #1
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 84″ x 68.125″; Frame: 88.625″ x 72.625″
Signed and dated lower right; retains two Salandar-O’Reilly Galleries labels verso
Exhibited:Â “Nathan Oliveira: Paintings and Works on Paper 1959-1991,” Salander O’Reilly Galleries, New York, New York, April 3-May 8, 1991
October 22, 2017 Modern Art & Design AuctionÂ
Grimes, William. “Nathan Oliveira, 81, Dies; Painted Human Conflict.” The New York Times, 18 Nov. 2010. Web. 2 May 2017.