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Oh, Joy! (Tokyo)

Irving Kriesberg - Oh, Joy (Tokyo)
Irving Kriesberg
(American, b. 1919)
Oh, Joy! (Tokyo)
1985
Oil on canvas
(2007.36)
Anonymous Gift

Kriesberg has been a figurative expressionist painter since the early 1950s, when he fell under the influence of the abstract expressionists in New York City. In 1952 he showed with Jackson Pollock and Clyfford Still in an important exhibition of fifteen American artists at the Museum of Modern Art. The gestural paint handling of artists like Franz Kline, in particular, had a lasting effect on his art.

Featuring the odd combination of a gorilla and an owl, Kriesberg paints them in a cartoonish fashion, using Fauvist bright colors and expressive brushwork. The gorilla’s massive head on the right of the composition floats disembodied from his hand, which supports the gigantic owl in front of him. While the claws and outspread wings of the owl appear intimidating, the gorilla shows no fear, putting his head right next to the agitated bird.

The disturbing effect of the large shapes, bizarre pairing, and frenzy of color and strokes appear to have been born from the artist’s unconscious. At the same time, the composition is a childlike and intimate vision created from a rainbow of colors meant to delight. There is an innocent appreciation for nature in all of its forms.

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