CHARLES RALPH STRONG
ABSTRACT, SILVER AND BLUE
Monotype on Paper
30 x 22¼ Inches
Initialed Lower Right, "CRS"
Dated Lower Left, "1989"
One of the youngest members of the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism, Charles Strong was a friend and colleague of vanguard artists such as Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn and Nathan Oliveira. He was also influenced by the work of Clyfford Still, whom he met in 1960 while Still was an instructor at the University of Colorado.
During an Aug. 1, 2009 panel discussion for the “Hopper at the Harwood” exhibition at the Harwood Museum of Art, Strong said participating artist and longtime friend Ronald Davis made an important point that was never followed up. This had to do with being known as a “Western artist,” something that he felt was as much a philosophical viewpoint as a curatorial signpost. “There’s a different quality to work from the west,” Strong mused, “Maybe it’s more spiritually expansive and open and might have to do with larger spaces, even if it’s a small work... the ruggedness..."
Strong helped produce the “Diebenkorn in New Mexico Symposium” in September 2007 for which he and, then-Harwood director, Charles Lovell were co-curators. He was also instrumental in creating the Taos Fall Arts Festival Distinguished Achievement Awards. TFAF Board Member Deborah Rael-Buckley said, “The recent passing of painter, sculptor, curator, teacher, writer, curator, philanthropist and mentor, Charles R. Strong, will impact so many lives in Taos ... As an artist, Charlie was adventuresome, inquisitive, talented and vital. (He was) known for his abstract expressionism which spanned decades, but he was working on many things until recently. His museum work, curating, and writing is well documented, but his generous philanthropy was felt by many. Personally and through the Martin Foundation, he funded countless projects, from books, to SOMOS events, to Stray Hearts, to film projects, far too numerous to mention. He was an important advisor, initiator, and funder of the Taos Fall Arts Festival’s Distinguished Achievement Awards, helping to make the new award system something desired and special ... His knowledge of area artists, past and present, is unmatched. Now, it is his name that will be, deservedly, attached to an award.”
Harwood Museum Curator Jina Brenneman remembers the artist as such a “kind and generous (person) that people forgot he was also a genius. His national importance as a working artist was overshadowed by his art activism in the community. He was too good at too many things, but everything he did went towards supporting and creating art ... He was an indescribably important link for Taos. His connections and historic knowledge boosted the collection, archives and institutional memory to new heights. Not to mention the show stoppers that Charlie was responsible for initiating and curating ...”
In addition to his career as a fine artist and his service to the art community as a philanthropist, Strong also had a distinguished academic career. In the late 1960s, he taught at San Francisco State University and, in 1970, began teaching at the Notre Dame, where he founded the Wiegan Gallery and curated exhibitions up until the mid 1990's. In 1982, Strong was honored with a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and, in 1990, co-founded the Peter and Madeleine Martin Foundation for the Creative Arts in San Francisco.
We are pleased to offer this dynamic abstract work by Strong, painted in 1989 when the artist was fifty-one years old.