William Baziotes – Abstract Expressionist

William Baziotes, was born in Pittsburgh June 11th, 1912.  His parents were Greek.  From 1931 to 1933 he worked at Case Glass company in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he was painting glass and running general errands.  He attended evening sketch classes and it was here that he met his lifelong friend Byron Vazakas, who was a poet.  Vazakas introduced Baziotes to the Symbolist poets and to Charles Baudelaire.  It was in 1931 that Baziotes saw the Henri Matisse exhibition at MoMA in New York and decided to move to New York to study painting. 

 

In 1936 Baziotes exhibited for the first time in a group showing at the Municipal Art gallery in New York and gained employment for the WPA as an art teacher at the Queens Museum. He met the Surrealist émigrés in New York in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and by 1940 knew Jimmy Ernst, Matta, and Gordon Onslow-Ford. He began to experiment with Surrealist automatism at this time. In 1941, Matta introduced Baziotes to Robert Motherwell, with whom he formed a close friendship. André Masson invited Baziotes to participate with Motherwell, David Hare, and others in the 1942 exhibition First Papers of Surrealism at the Whitelaw Reid Mansion in New York. In 1943, he took part in two group shows at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century, New York, where his first solo exhibition was held the following year. With Hare, Motherwell, and Mark Rothko, Baziotes founded the Subjects of the Artist school in New York in 1948. Over the next decade, Baziotes held a number of teaching positions in New York: at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and at New York University from 1949 to 1952; at the People’s Art Center, the Museum of Modern Art, from 1950 to 1952; and at Hunter College from 1952 to 1962. Baziotes died in New York on June 6, 1963. A memorial exhibition of his work was presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1965.

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