Pierre Alechinsky was born in Brussels, where he received training in book illustration and typography at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture et des Arts Décoratifs. He would go on to work in a range of media, from painting and prints to poetry and film. He was an original member of COBRA, an international group of Danish, Dutch, and Belgian artists active from 1948 through 1952. In camaraderie with other artists, including Karel Appel and Asger Jorn, Alechinsky held high expectations for a new postwar society and a new school of art. The members of COBRA believed in creative diversity; however, they shared interests in experimental methods, vivid color and free line, mythology, and children's art. In the mid-1950s, Alechinsky studied the art of calligraphy in Japan, adopting some of its techniques for his own work, as well as the materials of brush and ink on paper. In his paintings and prints, he developed a personal yet accessible pictorial vocabulary of forms suggesting animals and birds, volcanoes and waterfalls, plant life and human bodies. Gong is one such work, populated by biomorphic forms that flow into one another. It is drafted with gestural lines of ink and swaths of color using a monochromatic palette of various blues.
The title of this work alludes to the sense of sound, exemplified by an instrument commonly used in East Asian music, in keeping with the painting's calligraphic technique. Alechinsky's figurative abstraction, still in the spirit of COBRA, indicates his fascination with primitive imagery and bold color that appeal directly to the viewer's experience and emotion.
Inscription: Signed (upper right): Alechinsky
Marlene and Jerome Brody, New York (until 1977; their gift to MMA)
Pittsburgh. Carnegie Institute, Museum of Art. "Alechinsky: Paintings and Writings," October 28, 1977–January 8, 1978, no. 59.
Toronto. Art Gallery of Ontario. "Alechinsky: Paintings and Writings," March 10–April 20, 1978, no. 59.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions," October 16, 1979–January 30, 1980, no catalogue.