The painter Ron Gorchov, known for his distinctively curved canvases, has died at 90.

Justin Kamp
Aug 20, 2020 5:01PM, via ARTnews

Ron Gorchov at his Brooklyn Studio. Photo by Brian Buckley, 2012.

The painter Ron Gorchov, best known for his vividly-painted and distinctly-shaped canvases, died on Tuesday. News of his death was announced by Cheim & Read, which represents the artist in New York. He was 90 years old.

Gorchov was born in 1930 in Chicago, and began studying art at the age of 14, when he took Saturday classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1953, he moved to New York, where he became acquainted with acolytes of the New York School, including Mark Rothko and John Graham, among others. Gorchov supported his wife and son by working as a lifeguard until his breakout in 1960, when he was featured in a group show at the Whitney Museum and had his first solo exhibition at Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

Ron Gorchov
Cheim & Read

While his self-described “abstract surrealist” style was indebted to the Abstract Expressionist titans of the day, Gorchov is perhaps most famous for his experiments with canvas. In 1967, after a brief hiatus from painting, Gorchov created what would become his signature bowed-frame canvas for the first time in Rothko’s studio. The concave works, which resemble shields or saddles, were made by stapling linen or canvas to a bent wooden frame, which Gorchov would then paint with pared down forms rendered in thin, vivid pigments reminiscent of Henri Matisse. The works walk the line between sculpture and painting, and placed Gorchov among the ranks of artists experimenting with shaped canvases, including Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Richard Tuttle, and Blinky Palermo.

Gorchov largely stayed in this mode throughout his career, and in 1975 his dedication to abstract experimentation landed him a solo exhibition at Fischbach Gallery as well as a spot in that year’s Whitney Biennial. The following year, he participated in “Rooms,” the legendary first exhibition at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center (now MoMA PS1).

Ron Gorchov
Pierrot, 1979
Galerie Mitterrand

After keeping a low profile for much of the remainder of the 20th century, Gorchov again entered the public eye in 2005 after Vito Schnabel curated a solo exhibition of the artist’s work at his eponymous gallery. He received a retrospective at MoMA PS1 the following year, and has since exhibited at galleries across the world, including Cheim & Read, Maurani Mercier in Brussels, and Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin. His works are included in the collections of major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Guggenheim Museum.

In a 2017 interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Gorchov described his outlook on art:

Art is one of those things that, if you expect art to keep growing, you have to believe that people will keep doing art. I mean, don't you believe that art in the future will be a big surprise to us now? I don't know what it could be. I don't think we can predict it.
Ron Gorchov
Untitled, 2015
Thomas Brambilla
Justin Kamp
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