George L. K. Morris ( American, 1905 - 1975 )
George L. K. Morris’s Mixed Doubles provides a rich complement to the artist’s earlier work, Mural Composition (1939, 1972.37), showing his own inflection of cubism. It is both a vivid work of modernism, as well as an evocation of a favorite sporting activity.
As seen here, Morris's mature style wedded the European language of synthetic cubism with an American iconography derived from history, landscape, and popular culture. This particular work dates from the important year of 1948, when Morris and the critic Clement Greenberg exchanged conflicting views about the importance of cubism in the periodical Partisan Review. Greenberg believed the style had played itself out, preferring instead to advocate the artists who would come to the fore in the movement eventually known as Abstract Expressionism. Morris vigorously disagreed.
Mixed Doubles may in fact be a riposte of sorts to Greenberg’s view. In this work, Morris wittingly references Pablo Picasso’s iconic Still Life with Chair Caning (1912, Musée Picasso) while adding his own touches. The fractured planes, displaced text of the score, and multiple perspectives, not to mention the differing materials of net and lawn, pay homage to the legacy of synthetic cubism—yet the very American game of tennis wittily lampoons Morris’s label as a “Park Avenue Cubist”—an originally disparaging reference to his wealthy, non-European upbringing.
William Keyse Rudolph, DMA unpublished material, 2008.