Charles Biederman - Untitled, Paris, April 1937 - Oil on canvas Museum purchase, Weisman Art Museum

Miami, FL - Charles Biederman: An American Idealist, a touring exhibition organized by the Frederick Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota will be on view at the Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, from November 22, 2008 through January 18, 2009.  The exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of the life and work of  Charles Biederman (1906-2004), an acclaimed American modernist, important in the Constructivist movement, who pioneered new directions in geometric abstract art. The exhibition features a broad array of paintings and sculptures created during a prolific and influential artistic career. 

Charles Biederman #9-A, Paris, designed May 1937, created 1982 - painted wood Collection Weisman Art Museum, Gift of Charles J. BiedermanThe retrospective includes early oils inspired by American scene painting, biomorphic abstractions from the 1930s, early wood and string constructions also from the 1930s, and finally Biederman’s late metal reliefs. Fifty-three works in all complete the show. A new catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

As a young artist, Biederman lived in the thriving art centers of Chicago, Paris, and New York, where he experimented with most of the new artistic styles known as modernist. He developed his most notable and original work, however, while living in Red Wing, Minnesota, where he moved in 1942 and remained until the end of his life. During his years in rural Minnesota, Biederman ventured on a personal search for a new way of seeing, a new vision of nature, and a new art. Also during this time, he published a number of works on philosophy, science, and art.

Born in Cleveland in 1906, Biederman studied at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, then gravitated to New York City in 1934. There he was honored with important exhibitions that launched him into the American modernist community. Pierre Matisse gave Biederman his first one-person exhibition. Like other young American modernists, Biederman also made a pilgrimage to Paris, then the international art capital. He stayed nearly a year, absorbing the art and critical discourse of the avant-garde and investigating currents of European modernism. There he encountered artists who shaped 20th-century art history, including Picasso, Kandinsky,  Léger, and Miró.  In 1937 Biederman returned to New York in the hope that America would be more conducive to creating art that “legitimately belongs to our times.”

Charles Biederman #5, Red Wing , designed 1981, created 1983 - painted aluminum Collection Weisman Art Museum, Gift of Charles J. BiedermanBiederman progressed through a variety of styles before making his most distinctive work. In his formative years, he painted still lifes after French painter Paul Cézanne, landscapes and self-portraits inspired by the geometry of cubism, non-representational images of organic forms, then geometric abstractions. Sculptures, collages, and wood reliefs followed. By the late 1930s Biederman gave up painting and sculpture altogether, concentrating instead on the painted aluminum constructions he believes most fully represent his ideas about art and nature.

Biederman’s lasting achievement resides in his late work and the ideas that shaped it. Beginning in 1942 he developed a set of theories about art, wrote extensively on his ideas, and constructed reliefs with projecting forms that reflect a vision of nature inspired by Cézanne. The interlocking planes and patches of unmodulated color in Cézanne’s canvases became the touchstone for Biederman’s mature artistic vocabulary. Structurism, his self-defining label for what he saw as his most important body of work, holds nature as the ultimate root of art and insists upon a wholly abstract translation of nature into the pure visual elements of color, plane, and form.  In these works, small metal forms project from the surface and enliven the monochromatic background planes.

Charles Biederman died on December 26, 2004, at the age of 98, at his home in Red Wing, Minnesota. His work testifies to a significant contribution to the history of the utopian modern project of abstract art.

Biederman is represented in distinguished collections across the United States and Western Europe, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Tate Gallery in London, among many others. Drawings, paintings, constructions, notes, manuscripts, and papers form the Charles Biederman Archive at the Weisman Art Museum. Visit the Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, at : www.lowemuseum.org/

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