Norman Bluhm

(1921 - 1999)

About The Artist


Often labeled a second-wave Abstract Expressionist, Norman Bluhm had several stylistic phases throughout his career. Upon completing high school at the age of sixteen, Bluhm enrolled at the Armour Institute of Technology in Illinois where he studied architecture under Mies van der Rohe. When World War II broke out, however, he suspended his studies to serve as a fighter pilot. Upon returning from the war, rather than resume his studies at the Armour, Bluhm moved to Paris to study art.

It was during his time in France, ironically, that Bluhm adopted the decidedly American Abstract Expressionist style that would characterize his work in the 1950s and ‘60s. In 1956 Bluhm returned to the States, moving to New York where he exhibited at the Leo Castelli Gallery and collaborated with Frank O’Hara. Of this period Bluhm has said, “The violence in my ‘60s paintings was there because the violence existed in the man himself. …If you hit a canvas with a big brush with a lot of paint on it, you’re going to create an atmosphere of violence, and that’s what I did then.”

In the 1970s, Bluhm’s work would undergo a shift away from its former testosteronic expressions toward something softer, more voluptuous, and mystical at its core. He continued along this trajectory in the 1980s and onward; the mandala-like symmetry and repetition of forms present in his work became more pronounced, and its palettes even richer. These later works often resemble giant, Technicolor Rorschach tests. Throughout each of these periods Bluhm’s work became more imposing in scale, a single piece often composed across multiple panels.

Alarmed by art’s increasing commercialization, Bluhm left New York City in 1970, continuing his art practice in upstate New York and eventually settling in Vermont. Though he did not remain active in the New York art world, Bluhm continued to exhibit in Europe. His work has received critical praise throughout his lifetime and beyond.

“Norman Bluhm (1921-1999).” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016. Dorfman, John. “Norman Bluhm: The Greatest Abstract Expressionist You’ve Never Heard Of.” Art & Antiques. Art & Antiques Worldwide Media, LLC, Nov. 2012. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

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