British Artist Alan Uglow (1941-2011) was born in Luton moved to New York City in 1969, where he became apart of the post-minimalist east village painting scene. He is known for making paintings, objects, sound and visual installations, and prints.
Throughout his career, the markings and signage of sport influence the formal elements of his practice. With an obsession with European football that began in his home country. Uglow's "Standard" paintings - seen in this viewing room, reflect the same proportion of a soccer field. The works reflect a strong formal repetitive investigation typical of Uglow's work, they also nod to the idea of games and play within the field of abstract painting, and how the strategies to painting can be akin to those of a sports player. The works also show that although Uglow painted with control and formal commitment, he remained rooted in the world around him, finding inspiration in his urban environment and interests.
Excerpt from Alan Uglow: From Britain to America by Daniel Sturgis in Tate Papers, Spring 2020
There is a wonderful story of the British Painter Alan Uglow (1941–2011) cutting a hole in the chain-link fence around the sports field at New York’s Pratt University in the mid-1970s.2 His accomplice was the German artist Blinky Palermo and they both wanted to play football. The story resonates as a picture of two European artists in voluntary exile in New York finding friendship in happy transgression, but it also illustrates a slight pang for the European cultures they had left behind. For both of these artists, America was a foreign country.3 Of the two, Palermo’s career has been the more studied, especially in recent years. Uglow’s, however, is a parallel and equally fascinating story.
Uglow was a singular figure who valued resistance and independence in his work. He moved from London to New York in 1969 and there developed a unique painting practice. But Uglow’s work can also be seen to draw heavily on his formative years in Britain – to the London of the late 1960s and to the particular set of debates and interpretations that were then prevalent in the city. Uglow’s subsequent paintings were informed in part by his experience of the reception of the New York school painting in Britain during this period. This reception involved an element of misrepresentation, where the graphic and formal character of these large abstract expressionist and colour field paintings were prioritised over their material and conceptual qualities. This graphic reading enabled a coming together of opposing artistic languages – a diagrammatic form of popular design and the language of modernist abstraction. This coalescence, which has been suggested by critic and curator Éric de Chassey to be a specifically British sensibility, I see as important in the formation of Uglow’s practice
Uglow can be seen to have blended these languages together in his series of Standard paintings (1992–2009) and other works that are informed by both a modernist tradition in abstract painting and a provocative and nuanced association with the depiction of the linear marking on football and sports pitches. I see this trait as connecting Uglow’s ideas to those of the British artist Bob Law, especially through both artists use of open fields, and informing the initial development, in London in 1968, of Uglow’s first ‘lowrider’ canvas. Indeed, even the unconventional hanging systems that Uglow explored in the ‘lowrider’ works and others can be seen to connect to developments he witnessed in London during his time in the city. I see Uglow’s negotiation with these ideas as giving him a license, in a very specific New York context, to reinvigorate the minimalist and post-minimalist painting tradition he explored in that city. The canvases, installations and reprographic artworks Uglow produced from the late 1960s until his death in 2011 can be seen to have opened up new ground for painting, complicating and enriching ideas associated with post-minimalist practice. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that his work is to my mind so original.
Tomma Abts, Donald Baechler, Nathan Hylden, Sherrie Levine, Nick Lowe, Julian Opie, Richard Pettibone, Albrecht Schnider, Alan Uglow
April 9 – May 3, 2014
The accessible, nearly universal language of primary shapes and colors has been present in visual culture since the earliest days of abstraction. Incorporating grids, elemental geometry, and found shapes, Primary Elements explores the ways in which these objects are incorporated into contemporary art. These readymade shapes may function as symbols for other concepts, as in Baechler’s Untitled (House), or may simply investigate the purity or expressive potential of form. The exhibition brings together the reduced pictorial vocabulary of Pettibon’s Piet Mondrian with the dreamlike, imaginative figures appropriated by Levine in her After Miro. Understood by children and often aesthetically appealing, primary shapes have a character of timelessness. Primary Elements explores the ways in which these forms have been reproduced, referenced, challenged, and used for playful, subversive or spiritual means since their appearance in avant-garde art more than a century ago.