Friday, April 1, 2011
George Tooker (1920-2011), who died last Sunday, expressed more powerfully than any other American painter two prominent themes in 20th-century arts: anxiety and alienation. Much of his work could be seen as the visual equivalent of the novels of Franz Kafka, in their depiction of disconsolate citizens confronting faceless bureaucracies. “Government Bureau” (1956) above was painted after Tooker's frustrating experience trying to renovate a house in Brooklyn. The isolation and fear in "The Subway" (1950) are heightened by the claustrophobic sense of being trapped in an underground maze:
Tooker, who refused to discuss the meaning of his work, did not see himself as a painter of fantasies or dreams, but of aspects of everyday life that make a powerful impression: "I am after reality–painting impressed on the mind so hard that it recurs as a dream, but I am not after dreams as such, or fantasy."
Further images of the work of this remarkable artist are available through a slide show.