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Artists Audrey Flack
Audrey Flack Photo

Audrey Flack

American Painter and Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Abstract Expressionism, Photorealism

Born: May 30, 1931 - New York

Audrey Flack Timeline

Quotes

"Visualise what you want to do before you do it. Visualisation is so powerful that when you know what you want, you will get it."
Audrey Flack
"What makes for great art is the courage to speak and write and paint what you know and care about."
Audrey Flack
"At Cooper Union I became a wild Abstract Expressionist. I went home with my little sketchbook, and I copied every Old Master: Tintoretto, El Greco."
Audrey Flack
"Farb Family Portrait is the first work that was ever done from a slide. Of anyone, I think I was the first photorealist that would project the slide."
Audrey Flack
"The fascination of photorealist paintings lies partly in their apparent replication of life, but these are not merely replications. These paintings are often out of life scale, varying from over life-size to under life-size, from brilliant heightened colour to pale, undertone hues."
Audrey Flack
"I believe in the energy of art, and through the use of that energy, the artist's ability to transform his or her life, and by example, the lives of others."
Audrey Flack
"Art is a protest against death."
Audrey Flack
"I'm identifying with Mary, whose crying for her child. And I'm crying for mine - She was the vehicle for me."
Audrey Flack
"Making art is about making choices. There are a surprising number to be made even when you are contemplating something as simple as an apple. An apple may be red or green, or yellow or various mixtures. It can be rotting or fresh, sliced or whole, pure or scarred. It can be the apple Eve presented to Adam, Snow White's apple, Red Riding Hood's apple, the BIG apple. You can see how the form and meaning change with each one of these decisions."
Audrey Flack
"Art is a powerful force in the world. It is the visual representation of what we think and what we feel, and of how we think and how we feel."
Audrey Flack
"Spanish sculpture of the 17th century is all about passion and extreme feelings, in other words, excess. The 17th century marble sculptor Berruguete as well as the wood carvers like Martinez Montanez and Luisa Roldan intensified expression, added content, colour, symbolism, gold, pearls, jewels."
Audrey Flack
"I want my work to be universal."
Audrey Flack

"For me art is a continuous discovery into reality, an exploration of visual data which has been going on for centuries, each artist contributing to the next generation's advancement."

Audrey Flack Signature

Synopsis

Following an early, and comparatively successful, flirtation with Abstract Expressionism, Audrey Flack turned to figurative self-portraiture, a change in direction that was a response in part to challenging personal circumstances. Once her domestic situation had improved, however, Flack moved away from the 'self' and addressed herself to the object world using the copying, tracing, and enlarging methods associated with the aesthetics of Photorealism. Flack's new-found success was such that she became a highly revered and established figure within the art establishment. But rather than try and repeat her greatest triumphs, Flack turned to sculpture as a means of exploring issues of history and female representations, chiefly through the three-dimensional figure of the classical goddess. Latterly she has returned to two-dimensional work using painting and printmaking in her quest to rework the heroic - post-modern - female figure.

Key Ideas

Moving away from the large-scale gestural abstractions that marked the very beginnings of her career, Flack turned to narrative subject matter via a series of authentic self-portraits. Having formally studied anatomical art, Flack took her lead from no less a figure than Rembrandt, producing what were unadorned self-examinations typically realized, like Rembrandt, through sombre, earthy tones.
As she moved into Photorealism, Flack turned her gaze onto the outside world. She achieved the photo-real effect by projecting, tracing, and re-colouring real historical events onto over-size canvases. She also produced Vanitas works - traditionally still-life paintings featuring religious and moral symbolism - through which she brought iconic photographic images from the past into new relationships with everyday perishables and chattels. Flack would often use an airbrush as a means of bringing the burnished gleam of advertising to her subject matter thus lending her art a dramatic, hyperrealistic quality.
Turning her attentions to three-dimensions, Flack used sculpture as a means of exploring ideas around the politics of female representation. Her new female icons were typically based on ancient mythology - Medusa (1989) and Sofia (1995) for instance - only reimagined by Flack for the post-modern age. She brought her figures into the contemporary sphere through many self-conscious and kitsch allusions to pop culture. Her sculptures contested the idea of mythical and archetypal representations of women by making her figures instantly relatable for contemporary spectators.

Biography

Audrey Flack Photo

Childhood

Audrey Flack was born in Washington Heights, New York in 1931 into a middle-class family. Her parents were Eastern-European emigres and, so she would become a successor to the Jewish tradition and culture, young Audrey was taught Hebrew and attended Jewish camp during the summer holidays. At junior high school, however, Flack was a restless and disruptive student and as punishment she was often sent to a desk in the corridor where she was given pencils and paper to keep her occupied. Somewhat ironically, it was through her expulsions from class that she discovered her vocation. Flack had found a sense of purpose in art and she duly graduated to "class artist" making calendars and art displays for the school. On a more personal level, Flack had become so entranced by the swimmer-cum-actress Esther Williams that she made a diorama in her heroine's honour. Her admiration for iconic female figures would serve her well in her later career too.

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Audrey Flack Biography Continues

Important Art by Audrey Flack

The below artworks are the most important by Audrey Flack - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Abstract Force: Homage to Franz Kline (1951)
Artwork Images

Abstract Force: Homage to Franz Kline (1951)

Artwork description & Analysis: At the start of her career, Flack became immersed in the Abstract Expressionist movement. While still a student at New York's Cooper Union, Flack joined the Artists Club in Greenwich Village, becoming one of a select group of women to become directly involved in the Abstract Expressionist scene. Her expressive, yet ordered, paintings captured the movement's zeitgeist and the brave creative spirit that lay behind her early paintings was widely acclaimed. Most influential amongst her early supporters was the Bauhaus artist Josef Albers. It was he who persuaded Flack to take up a scholarship at Yale with the mission of shaking up the institution's stuffy academic reputation. Although her studies would lead her away from abstraction toward realism, the principles of structure and form in her early paintings would stay with her throughout her career.

Flack once recalled a conversation she had had with Franz Kline who she questioned on his black and white abstractions: "I remember saying to him once, 'How about using colour?' Because I love his work. He... said, 'Maybe yellow. Yeah, maybe I'll use yellow.'" Abstract Force then becomes a response to that conversation: an homage to Kline's black and white abstractions to which she brings her own preference for vibrant color (with yellow hues). Flack achieved this gestural abstraction through a series of broad, angular brushstrokes that form a tight, grid-like structure across the picture plane. The image does not only invoke Kline however. One sees here Flack's stated admiration for the likes of Picasso, Braque and Gris who emerge as a secondly reference to the Cubist technique of deconstructing symmetrical patterns.

Oil on canvas - Collection Norman and Sherry Bunin, New York

Self Portrait (The Memory) (1958)
Artwork Images

Self Portrait (The Memory) (1958)

Artwork description & Analysis: In this intimate self-portrait Flack paints her own image with muted, sombre tones and anxious, agitated brush marks. With one hand on her hip and the other jutting forward she appears confident with her identity as an artist. Gazing outwards at the viewer, she has a contemplative expression. Between 1952 and 1960 Flack painted a series of self-portraits which borrowed their sombre tone from Rembrandt's work. We find this connection not only in the subject matter but in the use of earthy colors also. Elements of Flack's previous expressionist style had by now developed into narrative, figurative subject matter, which she painted by looking into a mirror. Her numerous portraits of the time document a journey of artistic and personal exploration. This painting - subtitled The Memory - was made just after Flack's father had died. In painting her own image Flack subverts the traditional male/female role of voyeur/muse by performing both, her aim being to break with the stereotypical image of the glamorous 1950s American woman.

Oil on canvas - Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio

Kennedy Motorcade (1964)
Artwork Images

Kennedy Motorcade (1964)

Artwork description & Analysis: John and Jackie Kennedy are seen here leaving Dallas airport on November 22, 1963, just moments before his assassination. Flack wrote: "People were horrified at the subject matter. Everybody is smiling, and, of course, you know that one moment later Kennedy is going to get shot.'" The couple sit in the back of a convertible car surrounded by security and airport staff, waiting to make their ill-fated parade through downtown Dallas. Flack reproduced this scene from a color newspaper photograph of the Kennedys published at the time. Caught squinting in the glare of the Texan sun, the Kennedy's, accompanied by state governor John Connally, appear relaxed and happy, unaware of the momentous tragedy (and historical event) which is about to unfold.

Close inspection reveals the potential for a sinister reading of the image; Connally's hand is seen slipping inside his jacket while an ominous shadow is cast across John Kennedy's torso. Flack was one of many artists who moved beyond the introspection of abstraction towards the re-staging of popular imagery and culture. However, in the 1960s, and even in the wake of Pop Art, it was still considered divisive for 'proper' artists to directly copy photographs. Whatever one's view on the meaning of 'original' art. Audrey Flack's Kennedy Motorcade ranks as an innovative example of a Photorealist style that invites the spectator to reflect on the very ontology of art. On a personal level, meanwhile, Photorealism allowed Flack the freedom to push beyond the confines of her own life story and to look outward into the wider world for thematic stimulus.

Oil on canvas - Private collection

More Audrey Flack Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Audrey Flack
Interactive chart with Audrey Flack's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Franz KlineFranz Kline
Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning
Luisa Roldan
Maria van Oosterwyck

Personal Contacts

Franz KlineFranz Kline
Margaret Ponce
Jeanne Hamilton

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
Social RealismSocial Realism
PhotorealismPhotorealism
PostmodernismPostmodernism

Influences on Artist
Audrey Flack
Audrey Flack
Years Worked: 1949 - Current
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Richard PrinceRichard Prince
Jeff KoonsJeff Koons
Gillian Wearing
Cindy ShermanCindy Sherman

Personal Contacts

Margaret Ponce
Robert C Morgan

Movements

The Pictures GenerationThe Pictures Generation
Neo Pop ArtNeo Pop Art
Feminist MovementFeminist Movement

Useful Resources on Audrey Flack

Videos

Books

Websites

Articles

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Breaking the Rules: Audrey Flack, a Retrospective, 1950-1990 Recomended resource

By Thalia Gouma-Peterson

Audrey Flack: A Pantheon of Human Deities

By Susan Casteras

Audrey Flack: Vanitas

By Louis K Meisel Gallery

Audrey Flack. Abstract expressionist to photorealist: paintings from 1949 to 1977

By Robert C. Morgan

More Interesting Books about Audrey Flack
Official Website

Oral history interview with Audrey Flack

With Robert C. Morgan of the Archives of American Art - Feb. 16, 2009

Audrey Flack and the Revolution of Still Life Painting

By Robert C. Morgan
The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture
November 5 2010

Audrey Flack: Breaking the Rules

By Achim Drucks
ArtMag 54, by Deutsche Bank
April 24 2009 - June 18 2009

ART REVIEW: Audrey Flack: Artist as Wife, Mother

By William Wilson
LA Times
March 24, 1992

An Artist with Too Many Ideas to Consider Retiring

By Rachel L. Swarns
The New York Times
May 31, 2015

More Interesting Articles about Audrey Flack
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Content compiled and written by Rosie Lesso

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rosie Lesso
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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