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Boris Margo (1902-1995)


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Portrait of My Mother, 1935

oil on canvas
46" x 58", signed

Untitled, 1937

oil and decalcomania on paper
17 3/4" x 24", signed and dated
 

Untitled, c.1938

oil and collage on board
61 3/4" x 37 1/2", signed
 

Untitled, 1942
oil on silk on paper
23" x 15" sheet size
22 1/2" x 14 5/8" sight size, signed and dated

From November Nights, 1955
oil on Masonite
19 1/2" x 25 3/4" (sight size), signed
 

July 21, c. 1955
oil on canvas
24 1/8" x 29", signed
 

Counterpoint, 1957
oil on canvas
72" x 41 1/4", signed 

Trajectory of Dawn, c.1957

oil on canvas

70 1/2 x 24 inches, signed and dated

Expanding, 1959
oil on canvas
48 x 36 inches, signed and dated


Exhibitions


Prints & Publications


Artist Information

“During those years of war and revolution in the Soviet Union, Invention, daughter of Necessity, become the habitual companion of my art thinking.”[1]

Born in 1902, in Volochisk, a Ukrainian town on the border of Austria and Russia, Boris Margo studied at the Polytechnik of Art in Odessa from 1918 to 1923. The following year, with the help of grants, he participated in Futemas (Workshop for the Art of the Future) in Moscow and in 1927, studied with cubist/surrealist painter Pavel Filinov, at the Analytical School of Art in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). In 1928, the Soviet government granted Margo permission to study abroad, and he traveled to North America, living in Montreal, Canada, where he worked as a muralist for a year before immigrating to the United States in 1930. Margo made New York City his home, and in 1940, he also began spending summers in a tiny cottage in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

The pull that surrealism had on Margo in Europe strengthened in the United States, where the style was gaining momentum, thanks to an influx of artists fleeing the rising tide of European fascism. In New York, Margo worked as an assistant to Arshile Gorky, and he befriended a circle of artists that included Mark Rothko, with whom Margo shared an apartment in the 1940s. Too poor to afford painting materials, Margo innovated with “decalomania,” a process in which he used automatism to select and assemble fragments of print and images from magazines. As Bernard Smith has noted, surrealists were preoccupied with discovering “technical devices for tapping into the unconscious,”[2] and decalomania soon became a favorite of theirs, most famously in the work of Max Ernst.

Margo’s material deprivation led him to experiment with other processes as well, and he is perhaps most celebrated for developing the cellocut, a form of printmaking that became popular in the 1960s, decades after Margo’s innovation. The technique involved dissolving sheet celluloid in acetone to create a viscous liquid that Margo would pour onto a smooth surface like Masonite, wood, or metal in order to create a raised surface. The thicker the solution, the heavier the surface would become. Once the celluloid solidified, Margo could alter the surface with standard etching and woodcut tools or use acetone to break down areas of the hardened celluloid. The etched plates could then be run through a press or printed by hand.[3] Typically, Margo would “line up variously colored inks onto a plate, apply a roller to the colors to mix them, ink the cellocut with the blended pigments, and print the now multicolored plate in a single run through the press.”[4] The result was a fluid composition that “well served Margo’s brand of surrealism: a futuristic universe, inhabited by strange biological and architectural forms.”[5] In 1942, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased the cellocut Floating Objects Illuminated; in 1945, the Brooklyn Museum also acquired a cellocut; and in 1946, the Philadelphia Print Club awarded him a Mildred Boericke Purchase Prize for one of his cellocut prints. 

In the late 1940s, Margo arrived at his mature style—“a semi-abstract blending of shapes and atmospheric spaces notable for intricacy and warm flushes of color,”[6] —and his career steadily rose. In 1947, Margo joined the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York and participated in the group exhibition The Ideograph Picture, which also included work by Hans Hofmann, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Clyfford Still, and Theodoros Stamos. While Margo’s work encompassed biomorphism in the 1940s and calligraphy in the 1950s, his debt to surrealism remained apparent in both his visual style and his conception of art. In 1946, Margo was a visiting artist at American University in Washington, DC; he spent two years as a visiting professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1957-1959); and he was invited to be a visiting artist and/or professor at several other prestigious institutions. Even after his financial status improved and he was able to paint more often, Margo continued to make cellocuts, for which he received acclaim, winning purchase prizes from the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1947, 1953, 1955, 1960, and 1964. In 1968, Margo suffered a stroke that incapacitated him, but he continued to exhibit his work internationally, in group and solo shows, until his death in Hyannis, Massachusetts in 1995.

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, is the exclusive representative of the Estate of Boris Margo.


[1] Boris Margo, The Tiger’s Eye, quoted in “Boris Margo,” Sullivan Goss Gallery, http://www.sullivangoss.com/Boris_Margo/ (accessed April 2010).

[2] Bernard Smith, Modernism’s History: A Study in Twentieth-Century Art and Ideas (New South Wales: UNSW Press, 1998), 132.

[3] John Ross, Claire Romano and Tim Ross, The Complete Printmaker: Techniques/Traditions/Innovations (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), 51.

[4] “Boris Margo,” Prints without Pressure, the New York Public Library, http://legacy.www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/art/print/exhibits/pressure/artists2.html (accessed April 2010)

[5] “Boris Margo,” Prints without Pressure, the New York Public Library, http://legacy.www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/art/print/exhibits/pressure/artists2.html (accessed April 2010)

[6] Roberta Smith, “Boris Margo, Surrealist, 92, And Inventor,” New York Times July 13, 1995, http://www.nytimes.com/1995/07/13/obituaries/boris-margo-surrealist-92-and-inventor.html (accessed April 2010).

 

1919-1923 
Polytechnik of Art, Odessa

1924  
Futemas (Workshop for the Art of the Future), Moscow

1925-26  
Polytechnik of Art, Odessa

1927  
Hermitage Museum, Leningrad
The Analytical School of Art with Pavel Filinov, Leningrad

1928  
Polytechnik of Art, Odessa

1930  
Roerich Museum, NYC
 

SELECTED MUSEUM COLLECTIONS

Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA
Albion College, Albion, MI
Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Brown University, Providence, RI
Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA
Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, HI
Isaac Delgado Museum, Cincinnati, OH
The Jewish Museum, New York, NY
Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha, NB
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI
Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museum of Contemporary Art, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Purchase, NY
New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA
New York Public Library, New York, NY
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
The John and Marble Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA
Sao Paulo Museum of Art, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich, CT
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
University of Arizona, Tuscon, AZ
University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, IA
University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
University of Maine, Orono, ME
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Yale University, New Haven, CT

1939
The Artists Gallery, New York, NY

1946
Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York, NY
Creative Imagination - A Psychological Approach, American University, Washington, DC

1947
Betty Parson Gallery, New York, NY
Creative Imagination - A Psychological Approach, American University, Washington, DC
Graphic Work 1934-47, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

1948
Creative Imagination - A Psychological Approach, American University, Washington, DC
The Cellocut, The Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC

1950 
Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY

1951
Art Center Gallery, Louisville, KY
The Months, Norton Gallery, Palm Beach, FL

1952
University of Maine, Orono, ME

1953
Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY

1955
Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY

1956
The Society of American Graphic Artists, New York, NY

1962
Retrospective, Tweed Gallery, University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN traveled to Columbia Museum
of Art, Columbua, SC, Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, Savannah, GA, Columbus
Museum of Arts and Crafts, Columbus, GA, Fort Lauderdale Museum of the Arts, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Norton Gallery School of Art, West Palm Beach, FL

1963
Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC

1965 
Charles C. Bowers Memorial Museum, Santa Ana, CA

1964
World House Galleries, New York, NY

1966
Retrospective, Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery, Syracuse University, NY

1973
Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, HI

1977 
Retrospective, Maurice M. Pine Free Public Library, Fair Lawn, NJ

1978
Boris Margo, Paintings and Work on Paper, 1934-47, Monique Knowlton Gallery, New York, NY

1988
Boris Margo: A Retrospective, Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA traveled to Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, FL

1992
Stuart Levy Gallery, New York, NY

1993
Boris Margo: Surrealism to Abstraction, 1932-1952, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

1994     
Surrealism to Abstraction, Center for the Arts, Vero Beach, FL

1995     
Boris Margo: Fantasy in Form, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

1998
Boris Margo: Divine Light, Paintings on Paper from 1950-1952, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York,   NY
 

1942
Artists for Victory, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
25 Creative American Artists, Cincinnati Modern Art Society, Cincinnati, OH

1943
Collages, organized by Peggy Guggenheim, Art of the Century Gallery, New York, NY

1944
National Print Exhibition, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Captured Light: Experimental Paintings and Photography, Norlyst Gallery, New York, NY
Abstract and Surrealist Art in the U.S., organized by Sydney Janis, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati,
OH traveled to San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA and Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York, NY

1946
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

1947
National Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Graphic Circle, Jacques Seligmann Galleries, New York, NY

1949
Graphic Circle, Jacques Seligmann Galleries, New York, NY

1950
American Painting Today, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Annual Contemporary American Painting Exhibition, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
10th Annual Exhibition, Society for Contemporary American Art, Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Postwar American Painting, University of Michigan, Lansing, MI
American Painting 1950, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Annual Exhibition Contemporary American Painting, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

1951
Bienale, Arte Contemporanea, Museu de Arte Moderna, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Annual Contemporary American Painting Exhibition, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
Fifteen Years in Review, Artists Gallery, New York, NY
Revolution and Tradition in American Art, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
60th Annual American Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
61st Annual Exhibition, University of Nebraska, NB
Invitational Print Exhibition, University of Minnesota, MN
5th Annual Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

1952
Annual Contemporary American Painting Exhibition, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
Arte Contemporanea, Museu de Arte Moderna, Sao Paulo, Brazil
American Art, Gallerie Fauberg St. Honore, Paris, France
American Watercolors, Drawings and Prints, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Carnegie International Exhibition, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA
New Expressions in Fine Printmaking, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Annual Exhibition Contemporary Watercolors and Drawings, Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC
The Contemporaries,  Well of the Sea Gallery, Chicago, IL
6th Annual Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

1953
Painting in the USA, Los Angeles County Fair, Los Angeles, CA
International Watercolor Exhibition, 17th Biennale, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
14 Painter-Printmakers, Stable Gallery, New York, NY
Annual Exhibition Contemporary Watercolors and Drawings, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1st Annual National Print Exhibition, Dallas, TX
Annual Exhibition Contemporary Painting, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Candidates for Grants in the Arts, National Institute Arts & Letters, New York, NY
Moderne Amerikaanse Grafiek, Municipal Museum S'Gravenhage, The Netherlands
7th Annual Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
1st Artists Annual Show, 9th Street Gallery, New York, NY
Contemporary Religious Art, Church of the Ascension, New York., NY

1954
Arte Contemporanea, Museu de Arte Moderna, Sao Paulo, Brazil
25th Anniversary Exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
61st Annual Exhibition Paintings and Sculpture, Art Institute of Chicago, IL
12th National Exhibition of Prints, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
14 Painters-Printmakers, Kraushaar Gallery circulated by American Federation of Arts
Annual Exhibition Contemporary Watercolors and Drawings, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
8th Annual Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Graphic Arts-USA, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
2nd Invitational Print Exhibition, University of Minnesota, MN
Exchange Exhibition of Prints, National Academies of Rome, Bologna, Carrara, Venice, Milan and Turin

1955
The Embellished Surface, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Annual Exhibition Contemporary Watercolors and Drawings, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Federation of Modern Painters & Sculptors, AAA Gallery, New York, NY
Graphic Outlook '55, Contemporaries Gallery, New York, NY
9th Annual Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
International Watercolor Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
4th Artists Annual Show, Stable Gallery, New York, NY
Modern Art in The United States, Museum of Barcelona, Spain

1956
American Artists Paint the City, 28tth Biennale, Venice, Italy
Modern Art in the United States, Tate Gallery, London, England
Society of American Graphic Artists, New York, NY

1957
25th Biannual Exhibition, Corcoran Gallery, The Smithsonian Institute of Art, Washington, DC
First International Exhibition of Prints, Modern Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan

1958
Nature in Abstraction, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
First International Biennial, Museum of Art, Mexico City, Mexico

1959
26th Biennual Exhibition, Corcoran Gallery, The Smithsonian Institute of Art, Washington, DC

1960
National Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

1961
Annual Contemporary American Painting Exhibition, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
International Prints, Art Gallery of Aukland, New Zealand

1962
30th Anniversary International Arts Exhibition, Japan Print Association, Tokyo, Japan

1963
28th Biennual Exhibition, Corcoran Gallery, The Smithsonian Institute of Art, Washington, DC

1964
National Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Contemporary American Prints, Gallerie Nees Morphes, Athens, Greece
30 Contemporary American Prints, IBM Gallery, New York, NY

1970 
35th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

1975
30 Years of American Art 1945-75: Selections From the Permanent Collection III, Whitney Museum of   American Art, New York, NY

1977
Surrealism in American Art 1931-1947, Zimili Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

1986
Surrealist Books and Prints, New York Public Library, New York, NY

1990
A Spectrum of Innovation Color in American Printmaking, 1890-1960, Amon Carter Museum, Fort
Worth, TX; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA

1993
Lines and Myths: Abstraction in American Art 1941-1951, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY
The 1950's, Snyder Fine Art, New York, NY
On Paper: The Figure in 20th Century American Art, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

1994
Counterpoints: 1930-1945, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY
Americana Fantastica: Surrealism in America, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY

1995
Collage: Made in America, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY
American Masters of Watercolor: 100 Year Survey, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Loretto, PA
Exploring the Unknown: Surrealism in American Art, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

1996
Other Artist’s of the 50’s, Miami-Dade Community College, Miami, FL
After Dark: Nocturnal Images, Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York, NY

1997
Surrealism and American Art 1932-1949, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL
Singular Impressions: The Monotype in America, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian
Institution, Washington, DC

1998
The Surrealist Vision: Europe and The Americas, Bruce Museum, Greenwich, FL

1999
Impossible Landscapes of the Mind, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, NY
Linear Impulse, Micahel Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY
Surrealism in America During the 1930s and 1940s: Selections from the Penny and Elton Yasuna
Collection, Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL
The Surrealists in Exile and the Origin of the New York School, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina
Sofia, Madrid, Spain; Musées de Strasbourg, Strasbourg

2000
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery: The First Decade, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

2001
1950-1965: Abstraction on Paper, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY
Abstract Expressionism-Expanding the Canon, Gary Snyder Fine Art, New York, NY

2003
The Art of Organic Forms, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

2005
Organic New York, 1941-1949, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY
Surrealism USA, National Academy of Design, New York, NY; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ

2006
Abstract Expressionist Prints from the Charles Randall Dean Collection, Pollock-Krasner House and Study   Center, East Hampton, NY

2007
Surrealism: American and European, Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, NY

2008
American Artists from the Russian Empire, sponsored by The State Russian Museum and Foundation for
International Arts and Education, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; Fred Jones Jr.  Museum, Norman, OK; State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia; San Diego Museum of Art, San  Diego, CA

2009
The Pull of Experiment: Postwar American Printmaking, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

2010
Unconscious Unbound: Surrealism in America, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

2011
Abstract Expressionism: Reloading the Canon, A Selection of Paintings and Sculpture, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
Evolution in Action, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

2012
Otherworldliness, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY
…On Paper, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
INsite/INchelsea: The Inaugural Exhibition, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

2013
Abstract Expressionism / In Context: Seymour Lipton, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
New Forms:  The Avant-Garde Meets the American Scene, 1934-1949, University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, IA

2015
Monotypes: Painterly Prints, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH

2018
Edge of Visibility, curated by Susan Tallman in partnership with Art in Print, International Print Center New York,   New York, NY

 

1946
The Mildred Boericke Purchase Prize, First Award for cellocut print, Philadelphia Print Club, PA

1947
Purchase Print Award, The Brooklyn Museum, NY
Watson F. Blair Purchase Prize, 58th Annual American Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago,IL

1953
Purchase Award, National Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, NY

1955
Purchase Print Award, National Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, NY

1960
Purchase Print Award, National Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, NY
Purchase Award, Portland Museum of Art, ME

1962
Diploma of Merit, First International Arts Exhibition, Saigon, Vietnam

1964
Purchase Print Award, National Print Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum, NY
National Endowment of the Arts

1988
Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant
 

1966-67 
Boris Margo produced by the University Center for Visual Communications, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY

1993 
Boris Margo produced by Best Shot Video, New York, NY