Richard Pousette-Dart, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1916. He grew up in Valhalla, New York, and developed an early interest in art, influenced by his parents: his father was a painter and writer on art, and his mother was a poet and musician. In 1936 Pousette-Dart attended Bard College, but after a year he left school and moved to New York City, devoting himself to sculpture and painting, despite his having no formal art training. During the late 1930s and the early 1940s, he found inspiration for his paintings in African, Oceanic, and Native American Art as well as European modernism.
Pousette-Dart’s pictorial vocabulary went through numerous changes, progressing from slightly biomorphic forms to a pointillist style. His early paintings of the 1940s and 1950s are a synthesis of many styles, including Cubism, organic Surrealism, and included motifs from indigenous African and Native American art. His early works depict totemic forms and signs, mirroring his interest in human consciousness and psychological theories. These works combine countless tendril-like lines, geometrical forms—spirals, ovals, squares and circles—and bright colors. Color clarifies the internal structure of the forms. Like many abstract expressionists, Pousette-Dart often worked with his canvases on the floor, applying the pigment directly from the tube and creating his own rhythm in handling the paint. In the 1950s Pousette-Dart began creating works that emphasized the tactility of the surface, where many layers of pigment would both hide and reveal specific iconography.
The artist’s experience with photography influenced his style, making him more aware of the effects of light. By the 1960s, he had formed a style that suggested a neo-pointillist idiom in its discrete application of areas of color, These canvases are filled with flickering colors that produce forms radiant with shimmering light. Focusing on a single motif, the artist emphasizes movement inherent in forms that are both abstract and natural at the same time.
Pousette-Dart was associated with the New York School of Abstract Expressionists. In 1941 he secured his first one-man exhibition in New York and continued to exhibit in the leading New York galleries, for example the Betty Parsons Gallery and Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery, where the works of many of the members of the emerging New York School were first publicly shown. Pousette-Dart was included in the Museum of Modern Art exhibition “Contemporary American Painting” and the Whitney Museum of American Art’s biennial in 1949. Additionally, he had several retrospective exhibitions and was included at the Venice Biennale in 1982. Over the years Pousette-Dart held various teaching positions at institutions such as the New School for Social Research (1959–61) and the Art Students League (1980–85). He received many grants and fellowships including the Tiffany Foundation grant in 1981 to mark his distinguished artistic career. Pousette-Dart died in 1992 in New York City.