In this captivating and instructive show, “figurative expressionist” refers to those artists who, in Michael Rosenfeld’s words, “rejected the tenets of abstract expressionism and embraced the human figure.” Unlike the so-called second generation of Abstract Expressionists, followers of Willem de Kooning who also embraced representation in the Fifties, Rosenfeld’s artists did not fall neatly into any one school or style. What primarily distinguishes them as a group is their use of the figure at a time when abstraction held sway over most artistic imaginations and by the fact that they did not presage the rise of pop art in the early Sixties. The group included the African-American artists Beauford Delaney (1901– 1979) and Bob Thompson (1937–1966), Leon Golub, Red Grooms, Lester Johnson, and the German-born American Jan Müller (1922–1958).

Golub, perhaps the most famous...


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