Music Rack, 1944
Bradley Walker Tomlin gained notoriety in 1951 as part of an alliance of painters who protested The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s conservative exhibition program. Dubbed by Life Magazine as “The Irascible 18,” the New York group included rising luminaries such as Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Tomlin’s close friend, Jackson Pollock. The Irascibles represented a radical break with the European modernist tradition and solidified the American postwar movement of Abstract Expressionism. Tomlin’s career was brief compared to most of his illustrious colleagues. Plagued by poor health, which prohibited him from active duty in the armed forces, he died of a heart attack in 1953.
Music Rack illustrates the strong influence of Cubism on Tomlin’s formative work. In this visual evocation of music, a still-life disintegrates into an array of random fragments. A songbird and music staff are among the few recognizable elements that can be gleaned from the restless composition. This improvisational approach to line and shape prefigures the overall calligraphic surface that characterized Tomlin’s mature paintings by the end of the decade.
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