In preparation for his first one-man show at the Charles Egan gallery, Franz Kline asked Egan and Elaine and Willem de Kooning to assist him in titling his paintings. "[I]n a spirit of levity with a bottle of scotch on the table," was how Elaine would later describe the eight hour naming session. (Such sessions were common among New York artists in the 1930s and 1940s.) In titling his works, Kline frequently turned to the theme of an artist's urban haunt: all-night diners in Hoboken, department store windows, and subway stops all appear or are referenced in Kline's titles. This is the case with Kline's Ink Study for High Street. Kline named the High Street series after a subway stop on Brooklyn's "A" line, where the painter and his wife Elizabeth lived in the mid 1940s (H. F. Gaugh, The Vital Gesture: Franz Kline, New York: Abbeville Press, 1985, p.93).
The bold, slashing blacks of Kline's Ink Study for High Street suggest the dense and crowded space of New York City. It is easy to imagine Kline's abstract shapes as steel girders against the New York skyline. In the artist's 1962 retrospective at the Whitney, John Gordon writes, "Kline loved New York and all the noise and confusion of life in the city. He was a personification of the suave, sophisticated citizen of New York; his life became a symbol of its vigor" (J. Gordon, Franz Kline, 1910 -- 1962, New York: published for the Whitney Museum of American Art by F.A. Praeger, 1969, p. 12).
Perhaps as a matter of economy, but also as reiteration of the "New Yorkness" of the New York School, Kline often used pages torn from New York City telephone directories to draw his very first ideas for his paintings. These works have a fresh spontaneous quality and remind us not only of Kline's process but also remain, small time capsurles of New York City on the cusp of a new era.