Ralph Wickiser: The Abstract Stream and Covered Apple Tree Paintings
David Adams Cleveland
Ralph Wickiser gained renown for his ever-evolving style of symbolic art drawn from nature, at once expressive and intimate. Trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, Wickiser began as a representational artist in the 1930s and evolved into Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s and '60s. He would then segue into modes of representational abstraction in the 1970s, only to push new boundaries with his purified and flattened analytical abstractions of trees and reflections in the late '80s. Wickiser was included in the 1953 Annual at the Whitney Museum in the company of colleagues Milton Avery, Adolph Gottlieb, and Willem de Kooning. As a Woodstock Artist Association insider and head of the Pratt Institute’s Master of Fine Art program, Wickiser worked closely with friends Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Jacob Lawrence, Stephen Pace, Franz Kline, and Philip Pearlstein. Wickiser’s non-objective abstractions from the 1950s were created with lush Tonalist impasto of interlaced geometric shapes; inspired by Matthias Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece, the artist sought to create a visual metaphor of uplift and resurrection. After forays into figurative painting, Wickiser won acclaim with his sumptuous The Reflected Stream (1975-85), which captured the prismatic flow of reflected light on a rocky leaf-strewn stream in Woodstock. Wickiser further refined his abstracting impulse, culminating in his last series of works, "The Covered Apple Trees" (1987-98) and "The Shadows on the Grass" (1996-98).
American, 1910-1998, Greenup, Illinois, based in New York, New York