Friedel Dzubas (1915-1994)
He was born April 20, 1915 in Berlin and studied at the Prussian Academy of Fine Art and under Paul Klee while in Düsseldorf from 1936 to 1939. In 1939, Dzubas fled Germany for London and the United States where he later became a citizen.
In 1948, he he answered art critic Clement Greenberg’s anonymous advertisement for a summer roommate. It was the height of the Abstract Expressionist Movement in New York, and through Greenberg Dzubas met Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Adolph Gottlieb and Barnett Newman. Later, in the early 1950s, Dzubas shared a studio with Helen Frankenthaler, associating with some of the younger generation of abstract painters in New York including Jules Olitski and Kenneth Noland.
In the early 1950s, he began exhibiting his work in New York. In the 1960s, he started experimenting with color field painting.
Dzubas’ mature paintings since the 1960s assimilate his early interest in German Romanticism and Expressionism into post-war American abstraction. “He abandoned oil paint for Magna acrylic in 1965 when he found he could achieve with a brevity of gesture the brilliance and luminosity of oil paint applied in thin veils of color. He could thus effect the richness and variation of traditional glazed tones using a more expressive, immediate process. By the early 1980s, Dzubas abandoned his preliminary preparations of sketching and priming, thereby inviting spontaneity and accident into his painting process. Although he typically coated his canvas with a gesso primer before painting, he began to apply it so thinly that the pigment was almost immediately absorbed into the ground, making it impossible for him to revise and rework his compositions. Dzubas’ change in technique reveals a thoroughly modernist sensibility: “I like that risk,” he explained. “I think, to a certain degree, I have to make it mechanically difficult and unreliable for myself. If I can predict the effect too much, then I probably am not supposed to be doing it. I function better if my footing is not too sure, so to speak.” The rich, velvety hues of Grade’s reds, greens, and blues appear radiant in places. Dzubas heightened his color drama — a drama characterized as quintessentially Baroque by some critics– by varying the density of his paint. His rectangular forms appear to ebb and flow in an orchestrated movement across the surface of the picture plane.” (Megan Bahr)
A retrospective of Dzubas’ work was shown at the Museum of Fine Art, Houston in 1974 and at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston the following year. In 1983, Dzubas was honored with an exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Twentieth-Century Art from the Collection of Mary and Jim Patton “Friedel Dzubas”, by Megan Bahr, Ackland Museum of Art