A painting by Adolph Gottlieb. "Azimuth" is an abstract expressionist painting, oil on canvas in a palette of whites, blacks, and greens by artist Adolph Gottlieb. It is signed verso, "Adolph Gottlieb "Azimuth" 1965".
Having spent a major part of his life by and on the sea, Adolph Gottlieb maintained a strong connection with nature. Yet, as much as the relationship between art, nature and experience is reflected in his work, Gottlieb emphasized that he was freed from the desire or need to transcribe that experience in traditional terms: “I never use nature as a starting point. I never abstract from nature I never consciously think of nature when I paint.” Unhindered by nature as the dominant force, his principal concern was one of self-discovery and the world of highly personal reflections. It is the ability to embrace the psychological manifestations of color and form and to express inner forces rather than being a reflection of experience or ideas.
That relationship with nature and real-world experience is especially relevant when discussing Gottlieb’s oeuvre. In particular, after 1951, he shows a consistent curiosity about figure-ground relationships that suggests a horizon line. Azimuth of 1965 has been characterized as resting between his Pictograph and Bursts works, but it clearly shares a strong affinity for his Imaginary Landscapes that evince referential zones delineating sky and ground. That said, Azimuth, is not a painting comfortably categorized. As a man devoted to sailing, Gottlieb clearly recognized that the pictographic elements in the upper zone suggested navigational and astronomical references that are well known to the sport. (Azimuth, for those who do not know is the point where a vertical circle passes through a given heavenly body and intersects the horizon.)
Irving Sandler, author of the trail blazing Triumph of American Painting had a difficult time defining Gottlieb. Was he an action painter or color field painter? Most do not think of Gottlieb as a master colorist but Azimuth — though a study in color restraint — clearly illustrates that he is. In upper zone, a single rectilinear patch and a circular painted in black upon the blank canvas and below, accompanying pictographic forms laid upon a phthalo green stain. It is a painting that demonstrates that the properties of color can rule the physical mystery of shape and that in the absence of color, forms can float untethered, and without restraint upon a vast emptiness.
Azimuth was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1968 during Gottlieb’s great retrospective, a simultaneous exhibition between the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney in their only collaborative effort.
The Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, New York
Private Collection, London
Pace Gallery, New York
The Collection of Mornton and Barbara Mandel, 1993
Sale: Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale, Featuring the Collection of Morton and Barbara Mandel, 2 Dec 2020, Lot 118
Private Collection, California
New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Adolph Gottlieb: Twelve Paintings, February-March 1966.
Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Hayden Gallery, Adolph Gottlieb, May-June 1966.
The Arts Club of Chicago, Recent Works of Adolph Gottlieb, May-June 1967, p. 1 (illustrated).
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, 1967 Pittsburgh International Exhibition, October 1967-January 1968.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Washington D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art and Waltham, Rose Art Museum, Adolph Gottlieb, February-October 1968, p. 99 (illustrated).
Washington D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art; The Tampa Museum; The Toledo Museum of Art; The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery; Flint Institute of Art; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery and The Tel Aviv Museum, Adolph Gottlieb: A Retrospective, April 1981-January 1983, p. 142 (illustrated).
New York, Knoedler Gallery, Adolph Gottlieb: Horizontal Paintings, January-February 1988.
J. Margold, "He Sees Twin Bill Part of Long Run," Newsday, 16 February 1968 (illustrated).
''You Should Pardon The Expressionism," The Daily News, 16 February 1968 (illustrated).
L. Alloway, "Melpomene and Graffiti," Art International, XII, April,1968.
C. Andreae, "Adolph Gottlieb," The Christian Science Monitor, 23 July 1968 (illustrated).
D. Fry, "IMA Hosts Show of Gottlieb Abstracts," The Indianapolis Star, 16 May 1982 (illustrated).