Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

New York, Number 18

Artist:
Charles Biederman (American, 1906–2004)
Date:
1938
Medium:
Painted wood and plastic
Dimensions:
31 x 21 1/2 x 4 in. (78.7 x 54.6 x 10.2 cm)
Classification:
Sculpture
Credit Line:
Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1980
Accession Number:
1980.419
Not on view
In the early years of his career as a painter, Charles Biederman studied Cézanne, Post-Impressionism, and Cubism before finally turning to total abstraction. His time in New York (1934-40) and his first trip to Paris in 1936 definitively shaped his art as he came into contact with the work of many European modernists, including Arp, Brancusi, Léger, Miró, and Mondrian, Pevsner, and Vantongerloo. He was particularly interested in Constructivism (with its use of industrial materials) and De Stijl (with its rigid geometry and primary color schemes), two art movements that produced geometric, nonobjective images. By 1937, Biederman's work was becoming more sculptural, and subsequent pieces, such as New York, Number 18 of 1938, were rendered as shallow, painted reliefs. These wall-hung panels-often incorporating wood and plastic materials-could be seen from various angles, and natural light and cast shadows enhanced the visual effect. Here, the central portion of the rectangular box has a recessed center, cut out to form a number of right angles; translucent plastic sheets set into the hollow add a shock of yellow to the otherwise white scheme.

Wall panels such as this are transitional works in the artist's oeuvre, between his early experimental paintings and his mature reliefs, done since the late 1940s, in which a grid of small, individual, brightly colored pieces appear to float freely against a backboard. Although such radically abstract works were not well-received in New York at the time, precipitating the artist's move to Minnesota (where he has lived since 1942), there was renewed interest in them in the 1960s, at a time when Op Art was in fashion.
the artist (1938–at least 1976); [Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York, until 1980; sold to MMA]

Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Charles Biederman: A Retrospective," October 17, 1976–January 2, 1977, no. 173 (as "#18, New York, June 1938," lent by the artist).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "30 Painters: Recent Acquisitions," January 26–March 14, 1982, brochure no. 5 (as "Number 18").

Ida Balboul in "Twentieth Century Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1980–1981. New York, 1981, pp. 66–67, ill., calls it "Number 18".

Susan C. Larsen and Neil Juhl Larsen. Charles Biederman. Manchester, Vt., 2011, pp. 117–18, ill. (color), call it "New York, Number 18".



Related Objects

Work, Number 52

Artist: Charles Biederman (American, 1906–2004) Date: 1969 Medium: Painted aluminum Accession: 1985.174 On view in:Not on view

Study for Sculpture

Artist: Charles Biederman (American, 1906–2004) Date: 1936 Medium: Gouache on paper Accession: 1980.277 On view in:Not on view

Skyscraper

Artist: Paul T. Frankl (American, Vienna 1886–1958 Los Angeles, California) Date: ca. 1927 Medium: Maple, Bakelite Accession: 1982.30ab On view in:Gallery 902