May 16 —June 28, 2003
Although generally categorized with New York Abstract Expressionism, Mark Tobey stands uniquely apart from and is seen as a precursor to this movement. His works stem from a highly personal and spiritual stream of expression, which greatly impacted Abstract Expressionism.
Tobey, who converted to the Bahá’i faith, was a master of combining both Eastern and Western sensibilities in his work. Already fascinated with eastern philosophy, Tobey traveled to the Far East in 1934 and spent a month in a Zen monastery in Kyoto, Japan, where he studied calligraphy and painting, wrote poetry, and meditated. Back from his travels around 1935, Tobey developed his unique “white writing” style, inspired by his calligraphic studies in the East, which anticipated Jackson Pollack’s “all-over” paintings. For Tobey, the calligraphic line was not used to create boundaries but to establish paths of meditation and introspection. In the exhibition, Tobey’s unique paintings and graphic works illustrate this notion as their scale forces the viewer to intimately engage these works.