"Art is not a mirror reflecting nature, but is the very essence of man's aesthetic, imaginative, experience. Art transcends, transforms nature, creates a nature beyond nature, a supra nature, a thing in itself-its own nature, answering the deep need of man's imaginative and aesthetic being."
(quoted in R. Hobbs and J. Kuebler, Richard Pousette-Dart, exh. cat., Indianapolis, 1990, p. 74).
Richard Pousette-Dart throughout his career has explored a uniquely aesthetic direction all his own; his early canvases and sculpture are imbued with an intellect, clarity of vision and expressive intensity that remain arguably beyond the efforts of his contemporaries, Pollock, Gottlieb, Reinhardt and Newman. In a bold move speaking volumes about a reappraisal of the early days of Abstract Expressionism New York's Museum of Modern Art, in the blockbuster survey exhibition Abstract Expressionist New York (October2010-April 2011), prominently featured Pousette-Dart's canvases in the first room of the exhibition, with Pollock following his lead. Indeed it is the luminosity and granular atomizing of certain areas of his 1940s and 1950s paintings, like Blood Wedding for example, that predict the effect achieved in the hieroglyph paintings from the artist's Presence series (Richard Pousette-Dart, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1974, p. 8).
Hieroglyph #4 of 1973-1974 is an amazingly full and accomplished painting and most certainly one of the greatest examples from Pousette-Dart's Presence series, a theme begun in the 1960s that obsessed the artist for over four decades. With his Presence type works the artist has expanded upon his aggressive yet lyrical and profound abstractions from the 1940's and 1950's discovering an equally powerful yet graceful atmospheric vision. Hieroglyph #4 provides a rich experience and is uninterested with immediacy; as with Rothko's fields of color, the painting's power and gift is an endless and timeless space for the eye and the mind to wander and focus. Each moment within Hieroglyph #4 is incredibly well orchestrated, not explicitly but gently, with confidence but without arrogance. There is a delicate balance to the surface which hangs gracefully to an armature of biomorphic and celestial form that grounds the picture in a gravitas that pays homage to the artist's earlier masterworks. If it could be said that Pousette-Dart has a defining series it would be the Presence series, and within this series Hieroglyph #4 sets itself apart.
The youngest of the founding members of the New York School it is generally granted that Pousette-Dart "holds title as the first to 'Paint Heroically' on a monumental scale." (L. Stokes Sims, "Richard Pousette-Dart and Abstract Expressionism: Critical Perspectives" in Ibid., p. 29). This distinction elevates the artist's works to a status of respectability that defies conventional criticism. A first generation member of the New York School, Pousette-Dart was included in many seminal exhibitions, including solo and group exhibitions at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery, the Venice Biennale in 1948, Betty Parson's Gallery (starting in 1948), MoMA's Contemporary American Painters in 1949 and regularly in the Whitney annual surveys of American art. He also attended the informal Subjects of the Artists 'school' in 1948 that later became the influential meeting place, "The Club." In 1951, he was present for the infamous Life magazine "Irascibles" group photograph of the New York School, an image that would forever bind him with that group of mid-century painters in New York who changed the course of American Art History.
Pousette-Dart's work is included in many important museum collections and has been the subject of numerous retrospectives, most prominently, the Whitney Museum of American Art (1963), Museum of Modern Art circulating exhibition (1969-1970), Indianapolis Museum of Art (1990-1991), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1997-1998) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2007).