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Obituaries Awards and Honors Charles Schucker's Notes
Column NY Times
by Art Critic, Michael Kimmelman
>written in January 1998.


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New York Times Jan/1998 Michael Kimmelman,

Catalog Essay/ Feb 28, 1990 Carter Ratcliff,

Pratt Institute Folio Winter/Spring 1998

Art International/ March 1978

The New York Times Art Review/ 1998 Les Krantz

Five Decades of Art and All the Great Colors
By Kurt Gottschalk
Charles Schucker
One of the first artists to make stain paintings in the 1950's, Charles Schucker is a master of this technique. Pouring oil paint thinned with turpentine onto unprimed canvas, he creates brilliant color abstractions inspired by nature. The paintings shown in his third exhibition at the Max Hutchinson Gallery reflect Schucker's love of color, as well as his great ability to express the movement of light. “To express a great mystery in tangible form – that is color.”

The scale of the paintings is impressive; many are close to a square format (84 x 90”), others are more strongly vertical or horizontal (60 x 90”). The elemental forms of nature that have strongly influenced the artist in the development of his abstractions come from a totality of landscape images: sweeping vistas of the land, the motions of the wind and water, the brightness of sun and sky. He juxtaposes pure, clear colors in large areas; the edges work to define contours and create new, more subtle mixtures. The unexpected joining of colors as they play express a wide variety of moods ranging from a joyous love of light and movement to serene contemplation, evocative of the countryside.

Three distinct motifs emerge from Schucker’s use of improvised rhythms of color top define and alter motion in space. One is an undulating, circular motif where broad masses of color intermingle in an irregular circular or spiral formation. The untouched areas of the canvas are just as important here as the unpainted sections of Cézanne’s landscapes. Another motif is a personal calligraphy or “writing” with quick gestures in thin strokes of brilliant color. More open, quicker moving, circular masses combine with explosive flashes of color to form a third motif. By exquisite control, Schucker is able to achieve a broad sense of expressive movement, preserving the spontaneous quality of his painterly, calligraphic image.

Schucker’s paintings encompass the dual concepts of openness and density, from free movement in the open areas to more dense situations of color impact. In Two Blues, for example, the visual sensation is an experience in the totality of blueness. The directness and density of Schucker’s “blue” defines the essence of that color. Another painting with a dominant color is Big Blue, where open spaces of pure color are linked up by similar spots and flashes in minor tones of bright yellow to deep brown. The color images seem to expand way beyond the boundaries of the canvas, setting up a contrast with the other paintings that are denser, more compact. This flexible handling of contracting and expanding elements, in different paintings, gives a shimmering color that makes the whole show seem to “breathe.”

The great importance that Schucker places on the interior and exterior edges as they play against the negative space is clearly observed in Horizontal White, Green, Brown and Blue, a wide, open painting, as elegant and direct in color rhythms as the title in its description of the main colors. In this piece, a landscape that becomes an archetype of the organic flow of color, there is a stately lateral movement. The generous calligraphic rhythm of the broad masses clearly shows the influence on the artist of Oriental calligraphy. For Schucker, the graphic gesture is also an expressive symbol of the forces of nature. Like the great “Mountain-Water” scroll and screen paintings of the Far East, Vertical Red, Green, White, Yellow and Blue allows the viewer to take a journey in time. There is a lot of air moving around the vast open spaces between the multifaceted forms.

A prime example of Schucker’s rapid gesture calligraphy is Bees Knees, a visual poem where the “writing” animates the varied and intricate flash of an entire range of colors. The structural organization of the painting,, in continuous vertical columns and horizontal rows of separate colors, allows for the greatest combination and permutation of movement, similar to musical; composition. Charles Schucker, an artist with an international reputation, is a prime innovator in the 20th-century painting. Schucker began developing the stain painting method and poured oil paint technique at approximately the same time as his colleague, Morris Louis, in the 1950s. Where Morris Louis is known for his stained canvas with thin veils of color, Schucker’s image involves a deep intensity of color saturation with a strongly calligraphic movement.

Schucker’s work has been shown in many exhibitions since his first one-man show, in 1946, at the Macbeth Gallery. In 1950 his work was exhibited in “ American Painting of Today,” Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the “Art in the Twentieth Century” show at the San Francisco Museum of Art. He has had his painting in eight Whitney Biennials since 1952, and a one-man exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art in 1971. The strength and influence of Schucker current work is in a continuing commitment to develop, in new areas, the pouring and staining method he invented in earlier paintings.

Charles Schucker’s paintings are a combination and cross-section of an entire range of motifs. The paintings stay in the memory a long while after the initial impression of dazzling color confronts the eye. They permeate on many levels of being, from an archetypal awareness of primeval form, motion, and texture to the brilliant array of lyrical, dynamic, sensuous color. (Max Hutchinson, January 31- February 25)



Heights artist, 82
By Ralssa Lerner
Brooklyn Paper Publication

On a quiet street of 19th century houses near the edge of Brooklyn Heights sits an unpretentious double frame federal house, pea green, circa 1820. A shingle reads: “Studio 33, Charles Schucker, Paintings, Open.”

Charles Schucker, 82 years old, has been living and painting here since the day, 45 years ago, that he and his wife – newcomers to New York from Chicago – were lured to Brooklyn for lunch by friends living across the street. They never left.

A narrow wooden stairwell opens into a clean, orderly studio. A rainbow of tall paint-filled jars stretches down a long, sunny windowsill. Rows of paint-stained coffee cans, commonly used to clean and store paintbrushes, fill in the foreground.

For Schucker, a coffee can is his paintbrush. He calls himself a “stain painter,” one who applies paint directly to canvas, like Jackson Pollock in his famous drip paintings. In fact, Schucker was influenced tremendously by Pollock: “The freedom he achieved on the canvas nobody had ever seen before.”

Scores of galleries in New York and nationwide have exhibited Schucker’s work in both one-man and group shows. He has outlived virtually all of them. Nowadays he greets dealers and curators here at his house, where three of four floors hundreds of his paintings.

He credits the late John Baur, former director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, with discovering him while Baur worked as young curator at the Brooklyn Museum.

“It was a poverty stricken place then,” says Schucker, “and he was trying to build the collection with very little money.”

Early on Baur bought a Schucker for the Brooklyn Museum, and later, several for the Whitney and his private collection.

“If it weren’t for John Baur, I wouldn’t have half the recognition I’ve had in my lifetime. Or my summer studio,” a small house near Katonah, NY that Baur turned over to the young artist many years ago.

Schucker has been associated with the Katonah Museum of Art ever since, where his recent paintings are currently on display. Lately he has tried, with little success, to reinterest the Brooklyn Museum in his work.

Dressed in khaki and a red turtleneck, with bright blue eyes and wisps of long white hair framing a lively face, Schucker peels away a sheet of brown paper to reveal en eight foot square canvas swirling with white, yellow, striking magenta, orange, green and pale blue.

“I’ve got 50 or more lying under here,” says Schucker, “half on this side and,” striding across the thickly layered floor in the rear, “half over here. This whole house is really just an extension of my painting.”

A half century of artwork lying beneath his feet, Schucker gently peels away layer after layer of brown paper from painted canvases to reveal a lifetime in art. He unleashes a web of pulleys and ropes that descend upon exposed canvas below. A few hooks and staples, tugs on the ropes, and the painting levitates off the floor.

Grabbing a few coffee cans from his windowsill palette, Schucker mimes his method of pouring meticulously mixed and pretested colors directly onto wet canvas, using the pulley system he devised to facilitate moving the masses of pigment around.

“I choose the colors beforehand, mix them the day before,” explains Schucker. A light touch to the suspended canvas causes a shift, a dip, a curve that gives direction to the liquids. “I move the canvas up slowly, and the paint moves down. Manipulate liquids is what I do. Manipulate moods. I do a big painting one a morning.”

He traces his aversion to paintbrushes to the unenlightened technical training he survived at Maryland Institute of Mechanical Arts: “I was born in 1908, during Picasso and Braque’s great experiment in Cubism. Well, at Maryland you’d never hear the word; they didn’t want to know it ever happened. They hated modern art.

“I was always talented as far as color was concerned, but they weren’t at all interested.