Thursday, May 7, 2015

Janice Biala, The Bull

Janice Biala, The Bull (ArtNews Bull), 1956
43 x 55 in.

Janice Biala (1903-2000) was a Polish-American painter.  Born Schenehaia Tworkovska in a small city in the kingdom of Poland, she and her family immigrated to the United States in 1913.  Her brother was the well known Abstract Expressionist Jack Tworkov.  Biala studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League, where her primary teachers were Charles Hawthorne and Edwin Dickinson (respectively), who helped her learn to interface with subjects and mediate form and color.  One of her most interesting early works is a nighttime cityscape, in which space seems to collapse in on itself so that the bright and noisy intensity of the city becomes all-consuming.  Her style continued to develop throughout the forties, and she began to experiment with abstraction.  Biala continued to paint with as much energy and creativity throughout the eighties, and having gained significant renown, continued to exhibit her works.  Since her death at ninety-seven, her reputation has only increased.  Biala painted images of bulls a few times, exploring their physicality and dominance of space.  This piece is somewhat different than the others; it is much more abstract, and while the bull is still discernible, the swirling matter around it seems more dominant.  Any other specific elements are difficult to make out, but it does seem clear that the bull is behind something else.  One of the most prominent features of the painting is the palpable energy that emanates from it.  Biala's intensity and power are very present here.  Her brushwork is rough in appearance, but she exhibits significant control and each stroke is deliberately placed.  Much of the canvas is dominated by black, white, and grey, therefore the use of color becomes very purposeful.  The small touches of red, blue, and yellow do stand out but largely serve to accentuate the shapes and forms of the painting.  The controlled chaos that is rendered here creates a powerful balance and evidences Biala's great talent and depth.

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