Turner Contemporary in Margate : Library image

Turner Contemporary is pleased to be presenting an Ed Clark exhibition in the Summer of 2024 which will unite paintings and works on paper from the 1940s to 2000s, including loans from The Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum and Detroit Institute of Arts, many of which have not been seen outside the USA.

Though late to receive international acclaim, Clark’s contributions to contemporary art were significant, notably through his innovative push broom technique and shaped canvases. Today, Clark is recognised as a ground-breaking figure within the New York School of Abstraction.

Born in New Orleans and raised in Chicago, Clark used credits from his G.I. Bill to attend the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago from 1947 to 1951. In 1952, he furthered his studies at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, where he would return to make work for the rest of his life. Clark’s experiences in the bohemian quarter of Montparnasse and, later, New York’s downtown scene deeply influenced his shift towards abstraction and working on a large scale.

Image: Ed Clark, Locomotion, 1963 © The Estate of Ed Clark. Courtesy the Estate and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Thomas Barratt.

In 1956, he adopted the use of a 48-inch push broom to allow him to drive paint across the canvas with great force, a technique known as ‘the big sweep’ and exemplified in works such as Locomotion 1963. On his return to the US that year, Clark settled in New York, where he co-founded the influential Brata Gallery and created Untitled 1957, a seminal piece in the evolution of shaped painting and a highlight of the exhibition’s section devoted to Clark’s early canvases.

Travel and how a sense of place profoundly influenced Clark’s work will be at the heart of the exhibition. In 1971, visiting artist Jack Whitten in Crete proved transformative. As the Mediterranean light inspired a new colour palette, so it motivated him to seek out different lights and atmospheres, including in Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, China and Japan, as well as across the US.

This theme is explored in depth throughout the exhibition with works on paper and paintings including Untitled 1970 – an example of his oval-shaped canvases first made in Vétheuil, France – Untitled from Louisiana Series 1978-80 and the dazzling Ife Rose 1974.

Set against the expansive North Sea, Turner Contemporary is uniquely placed to explore how, as one contemporary critic observed, Clark’s canvases registered his “sensitivity to the pigmentation of the earth and the colour of the skies”. The exhibition will conclude with key examples of paintings from the mid-1980s to 2000s, a period when Clark brought new structures to his compositions with sweeping rainbows, tubes, and waves of colour. Seen together, these works will underscore Clark’s enduring fascination with his material. In his own words, “The paint is the subject”.

Clarrie Wallis, Director of Turner Contemporary, said:

“We are delighted to host Ed Clark’s first European exhibition at Turner Contemporary. His pioneering work from the 1950s, marked using unconventional tools like the push broom, has redefined American abstraction. The natural light of our galleries will uniquely accentuate Clark’s vibrant exploration of colour and form. Just as the varied landscapes from Chicago to Paris and Brazil to Greece shaped his vision, we anticipate his work will resonate profoundly within the luminous spaces of our gallery, complemented by the ever-changing sea and sky beyond.”

About Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary is one of the UK’s leading art galleries. Founded to celebrate JMW Turner’s connection to Margate in 2001, the David Chipperfield-designed gallery opened in 2011. Our work extends beyond showcasing world-class exhibitions to driving the social and economic regeneration of Margate and East Kent and transforming lives in one of the most deprived areas of the UK.

Since it opened, Turner Contemporary has welcomed over 4.1 million visitors, put over £80 million back into the Kent economy, and connected with thousands of people from the local community through our world-class arts and education programmes.



Turner Contemporary

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By Ed

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