The Modern Maverick: Al Held, Abstract Expressionist

Why We Recommend it

Foremost American post-war painter Al Held’s exhibition features works drawn from across his long career, focusing on his Modernist roots and his sustained exploration of abstract painting.


A pioneer of hard-edged abstraction, Brooklyn painter Al Held (1928−2005) created works of great complexity during his 50-year career. Exploring the ability of abstraction to reach beyond the realm of the viewer’s primary senses, the artist expanded his painterly language and practice.

Al Held believed in the ability of abstraction to reach beyond our primary senses; to access what he saw as a ’reality in which our five senses are of little use’. Often linked with the Abstract Expressionists – although of a younger generation than Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock – his was a continuous search to expand the language of abstraction.

A highlight of the exhibition is Untitled (1956) derived from his first body of work, the ‘Pigment Paintings’. These all-over gestural abstractions, in colourful thick impasto, reference Abstract Expressionism while pointing to a new direction. Also of note-worthiness is the ‘Taxi Cab’ series. Untitled (1959) represents a key development in Held’s oeuvre. In his defining period, Held often painted directly onto paper strewn across his gallery floor, features dynamic compositions with jostling, roughly outlined colourful shapes.

Held’s work features in many museum and public collections including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Neunationalgalerie, Berlin; and Kunstmuseum, Basel.


When: 22 Nov 2019 - 11 Jan 2020 Where: White Cube – 50 Connaught Road – Central