Red circle above black splotch on orange background

Adolph Gottlieb (b. 1903 New York, NY; d. 1974 New York, NY)
Drift, 1971
Oil on canvas, 90 x 48 inches
Gift from Daniel and Shirlee Freed to the Community

Drift is by pioneer Abstract Expressionist Adolph Gottlieb, and comes from his “Burst” series begun in the 1960s and arguably the artist’s best-known works. While simple and reduced in form, it maintains a sense of strength from the artist’s lush color palette and the canvas’s monumental size. Here, a dense area of gestural brushstrokes explodes, below a burning orb floating in space, against a solid red-orange backdrop. Supporting the notion that the painting references a landscape at least in part, the title Drift and color scheme could allude to climatic and topographic conditions, such as solar orbs or astral bodies hovering above a terrestrial explosion.

Believing that evocative art has its roots in the artist’s subconscious, Gottlieb strove to discover quintessential motifs. He always worked in a series, beginning with compartmentalized, primitive images in his Pictographs of the 1940s, “Grids” and “Imaginary Landscapes” in the 1950s, followed by the “Burst” series paintings of the late 1950s and until his death in 1974. Like other Abstract Expressionists, Gottlieb was fascinated by the primitive and mythic, but never abandoned some semblance of imagery in his work no matter how abstract it became. He, along with fellow revolutionary Abstract Expressionist, Mark Rothko clarified their theoretical foundations their art in 1943 by stating in The New York Times: “We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.”