Slate Cross


Franz Kline ( American, 1910 - 1962 )

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General Description

In 1950 Franz Kline dramatically abandoned his figurative style to arrive at his elemental architectonic abstractions. These signature structural dramas, like Jackson Pollock's drips (1950.87), Mark Rothko's blurred floating forms (1968.9), and Willem de Kooning's sneering women, have become icons of contemporary art. Kline's sweeping, lunging, and colliding brushstrokes were not attempts to discover the tragic, timeless, or spiritual; with his roots in the coal country of eastern Pennsylvania, he distrusted spiritual claims. Like his early, heavily gestured, richly colored city streets, bar scenes, and alienated clowns, which acknowledge his admiration of Peter Paul Rubens, Reginald Marsh, and English cartoonists, Kline's powerful, almost brutal, abstractions embody the energy and excitement of the city.

Slate Cross is a commanding masterpiece of Kline's mature style. Bold black brushstrokes traverse this brutishly elegant work, evoking the dynamic thrusts and angles of a bridge's steel girders silhouetted against the city sky. Kline has applied commercial paint rapidly, almost violently with a house painter's brush. Black-and-white forms clash, then interlock, creating a tense equilibrium. Critics have mistakenly suggested the Kline's interest in black and white is influenced by calligraphy. Rather, it directly relates to his early sketches, which reveal his passion for the drawings of Francisco Goya and Rembrandt. Essentially Kline wanted his whites to be seen as equivalents to the blacks, not as backdrops or voids. With Slate Cross, he created a compelling dramatic space reminiscent of the gritty energy of the New York streets he loved.

Adapted from

Suzanne Weaver, "Slate Cross," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 274.