Spotlight: Theodoros Stamos (Greek-American; 1922-1997), Infinity Field: Green on Pink, c. 1965

Theodoros Stamos (Greek-American; 1922-1997), Infinity Field: Green on Pink, c. 1965. Silkscreen (Edition: 54/75), 30 x 22 inches, Franco Collection, Auburn University at Montgomery.

Catalogue entry by Rhianna Ragan

Theodoros Stamos, born to Greek immigrant parents in 1922, is the youngest of the first-generation abstract expressionists.  He is best known for his early use of color, his biomorphic shapes, and his large-scale gestural abstractions.  “… his paintings are documents of emotional responses to the light, mood, and color of certain exotic landscapes and experiences.” (Artsy) He received a scholarship to New York’s American Artists’ School when he was only thirteen; here, he studied sculpture until he dropped out just four years later, in 1939.  He then concentrated on painting. He met artists Arshile Gorky and Fernand Léger while working in a frame shop in New York from 1941 to 1948. When Stamos was only twenty, he received his first solo exhibition at the Wakefield Gallery in New York.  Stamos’ paintings often appear rudimentary; this is because he was inspired by East Asian aesthetics and philosophies. “After studying at the American Artists School in the 1930s, his artistic style developed in the late 1940s to incorporate muted colors and organic shapes, an aesthetic he would maintain for the majority of his life.” (Scott and Passantino) In his early career, Stamos, like Rothko and Newman, had techniques based on expressive color fields, which were subdued and tranquil in comparison to the dynamic gestural painting styles of Pollock and de Kooning. Later in his career, Stamos activated his brushstrokes and modulated the tonalities of his paintings in an attempt to commit further to abstraction.

Theodoros Stamos, Pink Sun Box, 1969. Acrylic on canvas, 59 × 47 in, Artsy.net.
https://www.artsy.net/artwork/theodoros-stamos-pink-sun-box-1

Though there is no available information on this specific painting, it is comparable to Still’s, Rothko’s, and Newman’s Color-Field paintings; this would explain Still’s, Rothko’s, and Stamos’ participation in Newman’s 1947 exhibition, “The Ideographic Picture.” As such, “an ideograph is a written symbol that communicates an idea directly, rather than through language or through the mediation of any symbolic form.” (Fineberg) This shows that the exhibition focused on abstract shapes (like the biomorphic shapes evident in Stamos’ work) and colors. Stamos created other paintings that look much like Infinity Field: Green on Pink; his “Sun Box” series is especially similar. The idea of emotional response represented in color is evident in the works of Stamos, alongside the works of artists such as Rothko, who appreciated viewers breaking down and crying at the sight of his Color-Field paintings.

Sources:

“Barnett Newman.” Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being, by J. Fineberg, (3rd ed., Prentice Hall/Pearson, 2011), p. 99.

Scott, and Passantino. “Theodoros Stamos (1922-1997) Biography.” American Art at the Phillips Collection, The Phillips Collection, 2005, www.phillipscollection.org/research/american_art/bios/stamos-bio.htm.

Stahl, Joan. “Theodoros Stamos, from American Artists in Photographic Portraits from the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection.” Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Museum of American Art and Dover Publications, Inc., 1995, https://americanart.si.edu/artist/theodoros-stamos-4595.

*This source includes a source within it; that is the source that is being credited to the article from the Smithsonian American Art Museum

“Theodoros Stamos (American/Greek, 1922–1997).” Artnet, Artnet Worldwide Corporation, 2020, www.artnet.com/artists/theodoros-stamos/biography.

“Theodoros Stamos.” 82 Artworks, Bio & Shows on Artsy, Artsy, 2020, www.artsy.net/artist/theodoros-stamos.

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