Milton Resnick


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Painter. An abstract expressionist, he first created vigorous compositions of solid, heavily impastoed shapes. By the end of the 1950s, these evolved into sensuous but lyrical fields of small strokes, sometimes realized on an enormous scale. During the 1960s, his work became denser and nearly monochrome. With meticulous attention to nuance, he sustained this approach for the next three decades, often belaboring canvases until they staggered under massive amounts of paint. In the 1990s landscape and figural elements emerged in his work, as if from the painterly depths, suggesting poignant connections to memory and dreams. Rachmiel Resnick, nicknamed Milya, was born in the Ukrainian village of Bratslav. At the age of five he arrived with his family in New York. As a teenager, he studied commercial art at Pratt Institute but soon transferred to the fine art program at the American Artists' School. In 1934, at seventeen, he left home because his father refused to accommodate his wish to become an artist. This act of defiance presaged fierce and single-minded dedication to painting throughout his life. In the late 1930s he became a close friend of Willem de Kooning and associated with the circle of artists who would become known as abstract expressionists. Drafted, he served in the U.S. Army through most of World War II and then studied in Paris on the GI Bill until 1948. Upon his return, he worked at Hans Hofmann's school. Having missed most of the 1940s in New York, to his dismay he was frequently regarded in the 1950s as a newcomer, a disciple of de Kooning, and a second-generation abstract expressionist. Resnick did not have his first one-person show in New York until 1955. With his contemporaries reaching the height of their fame as he was only just getting started professionally, he came to feel excluded from his rightful place among the artists who had been friends since youth. His resentment fed an absolutist devotion to the process of driving paint toward pure aesthetic experience, uncontaminated by self-expression or social utility. Resnick's mature style of delicate brushstrokes forming a continuous screen of paint looks back to the example of Monet. Yet his encrusted surfaces produce a heavy materiality that hints obliquely at minimalist emphasis on the physical presence of the object. Resnick maintained a second residence in Cragsmoor, New York, a longtime Shawangunk Mountains magnet for artists. In declining health during his final years, he committed suicide at his home in Manhattan. Geoffrey Dorfman's Out of the Picture: Milton Resnick and the New York School (2003) includes transcripts of his lectures and contributions to panel discussions.

In 1961 he married painter Pat Passlof (1928–2011), his companion of nearly a decade. Born Patricia Passlof in Brunswick, Georgia, she studied at Black Mountain College in 1948. There she encountered de Kooning and continued to study with him in New York. In 1951 she received her BFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art near Detroit. Her abstract expressionist origins, tempered by the greater discipline of 1970s modular forms, resulted in painterly abstraction of quiet power. In the 1990s individually rendered figures, horses, or centaurs inspired by classical Greece appeared across large fields activated with dense brushwork. Later, grids of crosshatched strokes provided armatures for sophisticated and passionate displays of brushwork in rich and often unexpected color combinations. She taught for many years at the College of Staten Island, a division of the City University of New York.


Subjects: Art.

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