American painter and printmaker, forerunner of Pop art, who uses commonplace emblematic images such as flags or numbers as the starting-point for works of great richness and complexity. Born in Augusta, Georgia, and grew up in South Carolina. Studied at the University of South Carolina for about 1 1/2 years when he received his first formal training in art, then moved in 1949 to New York. Two years military service, part of the time in Japan. From 1952 lived in New York, supporting himself until 1958 mainly by working in a bookstore. Friendship from the mid 1950s with Rauschenberg, the dancer Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Made his first 'Flag', 'Target' and 'Number' paintings in 1954 and 1955 his first one-man exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, in 1958 won him immediate recognition. Since 1960 has also made nearly 300 lithographs, etchings, screenprints, and embossed paper and lead reliefs. Director of the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts since 1963 and Artistic Adviser to Merce Cunningham and Dance Company. Lives in New York.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.375