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Ed Clark in Hauser Wirth

Ed Clark The Big Sweep NY
by Alain Chivilò

© Alain Chivilò

“I’m still trying to paint that painting. I’m never satisfied with my paintings but I’m less satisfied with everybody else”. “I’m a sum total of my experiences at this point”.
From 7 September to 21 October 2023, Hauser & Wirth art gallery in New York scheduled an exhibition dedicated to the American abstractionist artist Ed Clark (1926 – 2019).
Two floors are committed for “The Big Sweep”, covering six-decade career of the painter. Sweep is the word used to point out his innovative technique and his revolutionary embrace of the common push broom as a paintbrush.
This presentation documents the ways in which Clark pushed the boundaries of abstraction and its conventions beyond expressionism: from his breakthrough introduction of the shaped canvas to his distinctive approach to and impact upon questions of materiality, form and color.
Colors have been her way of innovating and experimenting.
The publication “Ed Clark: The Big Sweep; Chronicles of a Life, 1926–2019”, produced by Hauser & Wirth Publishers, documents the path and history of the American abstractionist.


Ed Clark was born in New Orleans, 6/5/1926 and raised in Chicago, Clark emerged in the 1950s as a pioneer of the New York School. Over the course of seven decades, his experimentations with pure color, abstract form, and the seductive materiality of paint have yielded an oeuvre of remarkable originality, extending the language of American abstraction. Clark’s breakthroughs have an important place in the story of modern and contemporary art: in the late 1950s he was the first American artist credited with exhibiting a shaped canvas, an innovation that continues to reverberate today. His search for a means to breach the limitations of the conventional paintbrush led him to use a push broom to apply pigment to canvas laid out on the floor. Defying the discreet categories of gestural and hard-edged abstraction, Clark has masterfully interwoven these approaches into a unique form of expressionism. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago and L’Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris, Clark continued to live and work in France, absorbing the influence of such European modernists as Nicolas de Staël, Pierre Soulages, and Jean Riopelle. He became a member of a social and intellectual circle of American expatriate artists and writers, including fellow African-American creatives Beauford Delaney, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Barbara Chase-Riboud. Clark settled in New York in 1957, where over the ensuing decade he became part of the city’s dynamic downtown scene and a co-founder of the Brata Gallery, an artist-run cooperative among the Tenth Street galleries of the East Village. From the late 1960s until the last decade, Clark split his time between New York and Paris, traveling extensively to other locales from Mexico and Brazil to North Africa and Greece. Living in Detroit, in 18/10/2019, Clark passed away at the age of 93.

by Alain Chivilò