Exhibition | RALPH COBURN | Essay

These works on paper present Ralph Coburn’s distilled observations of the French landscape as well as explorations of concepts involving randomness, chance and choice. Coburn was trained as an architect at MIT and brought a unique process and approach to image making. He left Boston and settled in Post War France where he found the culture and environment to be well suited to his ideas and interests.

In a letter written in 1978 to an American curator, Coburn talks about the importance of his time in France and the influence it had upon his work.

“In early June 1949 I arrived in Paris…. I was reintroduced to the works of Kandinsky, Klee, Picasso and Matisse, and introduced to the works of, and made the acquaintance of, Arp, Vantongerloo, Herbin, Del Marle and came strongly under the influence of Vordemberg, van Doesburg, Delaunay, etc. A rather heterogeneous group, and not particularly French, but they all shared an approach that emphasized color and more or less systematic picture-building. Along with those, were artists like Max Bill, and Richard Lohse and other Swiss. I remember first seeing Lohse’s (work) at the Realites Nouvelles exhibition of 1950, in which both Kelly and I exhibited.

But even more than these artists in framing out reactions was the grand and living artistic heritage in Paris, and in all parts of France; the architecture, common spaces, the landscape, the sense we had of being plunged into an environment where art was everywhere, where art was a part of life shared by everyone, all the French people, and where art became finally for us a way of life to an intensity never experienced by us in the United States.

It was easy to see that Kelly and Youngerman were thus determined to make a go of it then and there, and so they did. I was a late starter, and it wasn't until 1955, after a couple of shows here in Boston, and a certain amount of success, that I went back for the last time to Paris, and lived in the south of France for another year and a half that my own style began to really be established. I do want to stress that it had to be accomplished in France, no where else would do, and it was because of that I spent about a year and a half each trip to Paris."

I hope you enjoy looking at these works and reading the essays about Ralph Coburn here on our website.


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