Artist George Negroponte reflects on the under-appreciated work of Abstract Expressionist William Baziotes.
William Baziotes made quiet, idiosyncratic, glowing paintings and drawings of intense formal vitality and deep historical ambition. His tonal color was exquisitely pitched and turned material substance into enchantment. The paintings are scumbled, preconscious and blurred by fantasy; like living dreams. Very often the natural world is mentioned as the principle subject of this work: albeit an allusive and fictionalized one of shapes, color and line. The best work of Baziotes is delicate, almost hesitant, and evokes an otherworldliness captured, set apart and isolated.
William Baziotes was without question one of the most gifted artists of the New York School. He was 32 years old when his first exhibit opened at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century in October of 1944. His close friend Robert Motherwell helped him install the show; Jimmy Ernst designed the invitation. The show generated substantial attention, sales and very good reviews: no less an authority on Abstract Expressionism than Clement Greenberg declared in The Nation that Baziotes was “an unadulterated talent, a natural painter and all painter. He issues with a single jet, deflected by nothing extraneous to painting. Two or three of his larger oils may become masterpieces in several years, once they stop disturbing us by their nervousness.”