Alexander Liberman


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Painter, sculptor, photographer, graphic designer, and editor. For decades, his creative flair was widely, if anonymously, known to millions through Condé Nast publications, as he guided the company's prestigious magazines with taste, intelligence, and imagination. Born in Kiev, Alexander Semeonovich Liberman lived as a child in Moscow. He spent the years from 1921 to 1924 in English boarding schools and completed his education in Paris. There he studied at the Sorbonne and the École des Beaux-Arts, worked for two years with painter André Lhote and then as an assistant to the poster designer Cassandre, and served from 1933 to 1936 as an assistant art director for the magazine Vu. After painting in the south of France for several years, in 1941 he decamped for New York, where he was hired at Vogue. He was naturalized as an American citizen in 1946. From 1960, as editorial director of the entire Condé Nast operation, he guided the design and content of such magazines as Glamour, House and Garden, and Gourmet, among other publications. After retiring in 1994 he maintained residences in New York and Florida. He died in a hospital in Miami Beach. As a painter and sculptor, he worked independently and inventively with abstract form. In the 1950s and 1960s, when abstract expressionism predominated, he adopted a geometric manner, producing simple, forceful canvases that presaged the taste for hard-edge painting. The reduced pictorial content of Continuous on Red (Museum of Modern Art, 1960) provokes afterimages of the sort soon popularized by op art. By the late 1960s, when minimalist reduction was in favor, Liberman had turned to expressionist forms in his paintings, while continuing to pursue geometric abstraction in sculpture. He favored welded pieces of large, painted shapes, although he also assembled junk elements. As a photographer, he became known especially for his images of artists and their workplaces. Accompanied by his own text, The Artist in His Studio (1960; revised and expanded 1988) surveys notable artists working in France. He also published two photographic memoirs, Marlene (1992), devoted to his friendship with Marlene Dietrich, and Then (1995), drawing on his experiences through seventy years. Prayers in Stone (1997) surveys connections between religion and architecture.

Subjects: Art.

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