Held, Al

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Al Held was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1928. He was thrown out of school at age 16 for truancy, and would join the Navy serving for two years before returning to New York City. Inspired by his friend Nicholas Krushenick, Held enrolled in the Art Students League of New York. In 1949, using the support of the G.I. Bill, he went to Paris for three years, to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He returned to New York in 1953 as a modernist. In the next few years, Held established himself as a working artist and began to exhibit his work. After his first solo Abstract expressionist exhibition in 1959, Held’s large-scale paintings of colorful, simple abstract geometric forms gained increasing recognition in America and Europe. In 1962, he was appointed to the faculty of the Yale School of Art (where he taught until 1980), and in 1966 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and received the Logan Medal of the Arts. In 1967, Held shifted to black and white images that dealt with challenging volume, spatial depth, and perspective. By the late 1970s he initiated another major change in his work by reintroducing color as a way of articulating forms. In 2005, shortly before his death, Held completed a large colorful mural in the New York City Subway system, at East 53rd Street and Lexington.

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