Boris Margo

Boris Margo (1920 -1995)
Message I, circa 1970
Stretched canvas over relief
22 H. x 27 W. x 1 1/2 D. inches
Signed and titled verso: Oris Margo
Message I

Artist Description

MARGO, BORIS (1902–1995), U.S. painter, graphic artist, and educator. Margo taught art at many leading American universities. Born in Wolotschisk, Ukraine, Margo studied at the Polytechnik of Art in Odessa, the Workshop for the Art of the Future (Futemas) in Moscow, and the Analytical School of Art in Leningrad. His wife was the painter and printmaker Jan Gelb. After receiving a degree from the Polytechnik, he worked as a muralist in Montreal and then moved to New York City in 1930. There, he studied and then taught at the Roerich Museum, founded by Russian Nicolas Roerich. For a time, he was artist Arshile Gorky’s assistant. In 1943, he attained American citizenship, and worked in New York City and Province-town, Massachusetts. Early in his career, Margo developed a method of printmaking called cellocut, a technique in which celluloid dissolved in acetone is poured onto any smooth support, including brass, aluminum, cardboard, and copper; when solidified the plastic can be worked in various ways, such as scraping and gouging with etching and woodcut tools. Margo often combined cellocut with painting and monoprinting. The titles of an exhibition of his cellocuts at the Brooklyn Museum in 1947 suggested an involvement with science and human achievement: Yellow Dawn (1944), Genetic Field (1946), and Radar Outpost (1947). Like Max Ernst, he applied decalcomania in painting, for example in his work Enchanted Beach (1938). In this process, paint on one surface is pressed and transferred to another surface, creating variously shaped and textured patches of pigment. This Surrealist imagery of Enchanted Beach depicts a ravaged, apocalyptic landscape, perhaps a reference to the bombed and war-torn landscapes of Germany and England; the composition is strewn with architectural ruins in and around which emerge ill-defined biomorphic shapes in earth-toned colors. However, the reference to magic and water reveals a hope for renewal even in the face of human suffering and devastation. Enchanted Beach shares stylistic features with the Surrealist works of Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, and Arshile Gorky, among others. In the 1950s, Margo’s work often featured a thin vertical or horizontal line which possesses both an atmospheric and spiritual quality. Margo founded galleries in Orlando, Florida, and Provincetown, Mass. He received his first solo show at the Artists Gallery, New York, in 1939. Since then, Margo’s work has been exhibited in a number of solo and group shows, at the Brooklyn Museum, Betty Parsons Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum, among other venues. In 1946, he received the Mildred Boericke Purchase Prize, First Award for cellocut print, Philadelphia Print Club. The Brooklyn Museum awarded him a Purchase Print Award in 1947, 1953, 1955, 1960, and 1964. In 1988, he was a recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. His work is owned by many American museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.

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