With roots in both the East and the West Coast art worlds, Abstract Expressionist painter Edward Dugmore combines gritty, tactile surfaces with luminous color and linear grace. Dugmore’s attraction to the poetry of William Blake, the painting of El Greco, and the music of Beethoven mirrors his own lifelong struggle to set his inner emotional life down on the canvas. This quest was shared by his peers of the New York School, whose art sought to embody the drama of the psyche, summed up in Jackson Pollock’s famous quip: “I am nature.”
The recipient of a highly classical art education before World War II, Dugmore made use of his GI Bill funds to attend the decidedly modern California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. There, he studied under the Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still, whose dogmatic, forceful presence would have lasting effects on the artist. His experiences at the California School of Fine Arts “released Dugmore from his debt to the past of painting,” allowing him to move confidently into the modern moment. (1) Still urged his students to seek the new through grand renunciations of the past; to work in a heroic style and on a heroic scale. Dugmore said of his time there: “The whole feeling was huge. You felt huge. You felt all encompassing. Like the wrong end of a telescope. Instead of going into it, you sort of expanded—in conversation, in ideas. It was a great lifting kind of experience.” (2)
Dugmore moved to New York in 1952 and quickly became part of the group that regularly congregated at the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village, which included Pollock, Willam de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and others. Still remained a presence in his life through these shared connections. Dugmore soon began showing his work at
the Stable Gallery, whose advocacy for the younger Abstract Expressionists was unparalleled, and would have three solo exhibitions at the gallery by the end of the decade.
Dugmore’s signature coarse texture—achieved by placing pigment directly with a palette knife—and his dextrous use of color create both space and light in his canvases. The tactility of his work emphasizes its energy and movement, and his canvases often seem to glow with an inner light; a fitting tribute to the artist’s Romanitc spirit. Dore Ashton nicely encapsulated the feeling of Dugmore’s work in 1991:
“Yet, looking back—really looking—at these paints of Dugmore so many years later, it is apparent that the sensibility is far from rough or brutal. On the contrary, there is an innate delicacy evident even in the way the paint is applied, and certainly in the kinda of experiences he is expressing. So much light; so much color; so much slow or accelerated movement; so much urgency; so much enthusiasm; so much energy; so much—well, beauty.” (3)
1. Dore Ashton, Edward Dugmore, Burning Bright: Paintings 1950-1959. (Los Angeles: Manny Silverman Gallery), 9.
2. Edward Dugmore, interview with Marry Fuller McChesney in “A Period of Exploration,” San Francisco 1945-50, 1973. Quoted in Ashton, 9.
3. Ashton, 13.
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