Full Bluhm

Categories: Spaced City
Courtesy of the Station Museum
Pythagorean Icon by Norman Bluhm
The Station Museum has picked a mix of sacred hymns and cool jazz to complement “The Late Paintings of Norman Bluhm.” It’s a strange combination, but there’s reasoning behind the choice. The New York artist’s panoramic paintings are patterned like stained glass windows or mandalas, but the shapes inside are sexy. Bluhm’s work is filled with vaginal pink lumps and folds, semen-like white streaks and figures resembling contorted human bodies.

James Harithas, a friend of the late Bluhm and curator of the show, says most viewers see some combination of sex and spirituality in the paintings -- interpretations the artist didn’t confirm or deny. “He was smart and quiet and wanted the work to speak for itself,” says Harithas.

During World War II, Bluhm flew 44 missions in a B-26 Marauder, the most shot-at plane in the Air Force’s stable. “He was definitely scarred,” says Harithas. “He wanted the kind of outlet abstract expressionism offered.” Bluhm fell into the “action painting” movement of Jackson Pollock, showing his hulking canvases of colorful smears in galleries across the globe. The style of the paintings on view at the Station was cemented in the late ’80s. – Nick Keppler

For more on Bluhm’s mixing of flesh and soul, check out our Night & Day® section, which has some other unlikely blends -- including family photos with a ghostly aesthetic, an Asian comedian with a Southern accent (“to a lot of people, that right there is funny,” he says) and an opera production outfitted by the “Princess of Punk."


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