Charles Biederman


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Painter and relief sculptor. He is known particularly for small, painted reliefs composed of rectilinear elements. Born Karel Joseph Biederman in Cleveland, he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1926 until 1929. He remained in Chicago, working as a painter under the influence of Cézanne and cubism, until moving to New York in 1934. Soon he began to work with pure abstraction, as in Painting, New York, January 1936 (Whitney Museum). Its hard, shiny biomorphic forms curve intricately through space as they float before a flat red background. During nine months in Paris in 1936–37, he met many of the modern masters he admired, including Arp, Fernand Léger, and Mondrian, as well as Antoine Pevsner, whose constructivist ideas were important to Biederman's further development. He had begun to make reliefs shortly before going abroad, and subsequently in New York did not return to painting. Working with concepts from constructivism and Mondrian's neoplasticism, he developed an approach he called structurism to analyze structural formations found in nature in terms of abstract arrangements of geometric form. In a characteristic relief, Work No. 36, Aix (Museum of Modern Art, 1953–72), small white and colored planes create a buoyant, graceful effect as they float before an arrangement of clustered verticals, painted white in the center, bright yellow on either side. Biederman moved permanently to Red Wing, Minnesota, near Minneapolis, in 1942. During his first three years there, he worked on a U.S. Army medical project. In 1948 he published Art as the Evolution of Visual Knowledge, the first of several books on art theory. Bohm-Biederman Correspondence (1999), edited by Paavo Pylkkanen, presents letters he exchanged with physicist David Bohm, who shared an interest in philosophical questions. Biederman continued to work into the 1990s, when failing eyesight curtailed his art. He died in the farmhouse where he had lived for half a century.

Subjects: Art.

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