Work no. 3, 1939


Charles Joseph Biederman ( American, 1906 - 2004 )

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General Description

Work no. 3, 1939 is a record both of Charles Biederman's restless exploration of the forms of modernity en route to his mature style and his ultimate conviction that a new language of art must be developed, one that respected the innovations of Paul Cézanne but married abstraction with nature.

Biederman evokes Piet Mondrian's highly formal, reductive grid, yet expands the armature forwards, backwards, and outwards in three dimensions. If the Dutch artist reduced visual phenomena to its simplest components (line, shape, and color), Biederman's construction situates that distillation of form within a world of three-dimensionality, insisting both upon the object's presence by intruding into the viewer's space, as well as by using materials (glass and metal rods) that acknowledge the modern world of mechanization and industry. The placement of the metal rods evokes the string constructions of Antoine Pevsner. In addition to investigating the restrictive formalism of Mondrian and the new materials of Constructivism, the multiple layers of Work no. 3, 1939 also pay homage to Paul Cézanne. By incorporating transparency and emphasizing the artwork's flatness and materiality, the work advances Cézanne's rejection of traditional modeling and perspective. Biederman literally exposes the grid to our view, in multiple layers, forcing sculpture and painting to work together to unmask their own conditions of existence.

Adapted from

William Keyse Rudolph, DMA Acquisition proposal (2007.23), January 2007

Fun Facts

  • The person who purchased this work from Biederman, John Anderson, was the artist's sole patron in the early years of the Great Depression. When the two first met, Biederman was homeless and scavenging for meals on the streets of Chicago. A decade later, Biederman married the sister of Anderson's wife, and both couples relocated to Red Wing, Minnesota.