Robert Mangold
USA, 1937
In the face of the repeated announcements of the death of painting that have been made since the 1960s, Robert Mangold’s work has been a demonstration that it is alive and well. His work springs from a skilful reuse of the basic components of the medium: form, surface, colour and line. He has given the form of the picture an unusual freedom and allowed the pictorial effect to stretch beyond its physical borders. Moreover, he has managed to endow his painting with a high degree of reality and an almost holy aura. Mangold’s training is linked to that of a number of key figures of Minimalism. After graduating in 1959 from the Cleveland Institute of Art, between 1960 and 1963 he completed the master’s programme at the School of Art and Architecture at Yale University in New Haven. Among his fellow students were artists such as Brice Marden, Richard Serra and Nancy Graves. In 1962 he moved to New York, where he worked first as a guard and later as a librarian at MoMA. There he met other artists such as Robert Ryman and Sol LeWitt, who were also working in the museum. In 1964 he left the job and took up teaching at art schools in the city, a profession he would remain in until the 1980s. In the mid-1960s, he began to exhibit paintings, which he had stripped of all symbolic content in order to heighten their physical presence. The principles of neutrality and objectivity to be found in his work were the same as those of his Minimalist contemporaries. His materials at the time were industrial and he applied paint with a spray gun: ‘In a way it seemed important to escape from the language painting had been using for so long and find forms of dealing with the real world,’ he has explained. However, his layouts have never followed a rigorous systematisation like the Minimalists’. The diversity of his forms, the irregularity of his contours and the distortion of his geometries, as well as his unusual colours (most of them are tones taken from everyday objects) and the application of the layers of paint itself respond to a personal choice which is often intuitive. From the 1970s his work cautiously abandoned its neutrality by introducing pictorial effects that gave his painting back its illusionist character and began an evolution towards freer pictorial forms which gradually opened the way for emotion.
Nimfa Bisbe