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Al Held

Al Held (October 12, 1928July 27, 2005) was an American Abstract expressionist painter. He was particularly well known for his large scale Hard-edge paintings.

Background and education

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1928, Held showed no interest in art until leaving the Navy in 1947. Inspired by his friend Nicholas Krushenick, Held enrolled in the Art Students League of New York. In 1949, using the support of the G.I. Bill, he went to Paris for three years, to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He returned to New York in 1953, to struggle with his work for several years.


After his first solo Abstract expressionist exhibition in 1959, Held's large-scale paintings of colourful, simple abstract geometric forms gained increasing recognition in America and Europe. In 1962, he was appointed to the Yale University Faculty Of Art (where he would teach until 1980). In 1965, the critic Irving Sandler curated the critically acclaimed Concrete Expressionism show at New York University featuring the work of painters Al Held and Knox Martin and the sculptors Ronald Bladen, George Sugarman and David Weinrib.
In 1966, Held was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and received the Logan Medal of the arts. Feeling that he'd reached the end of his style's potential, he shifted in 1967 to black and white images that dealt with challenging perspectives and "spatial conundrums." Some critics dismissed this work as simply disorienting; others declared it Held's finest achievement to date. By the late 70's, he had re-introduced colour to his work.

In his later years, Held earned commissions of up to one million dollars. In 2005, he completed a large, colorful mural in the New York City Subway system, at East 53rd Street and Lexington.

At age 76, Held was found dead in his villa swimming pool near Camerata, Italy, on July 27, 2005. It is believed he died of natural causes.

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