American Abstract Expressionist painter, born at Dvinsk in Russia. Emigrated with his family to Portland, Oregon, in 1913. Studied the liberal arts at Yale University 1921-3. Moved in 1925 to New York and studied for a short time at the Art Students League under Max Weber, then began to paint on his own. Taught at Center Academy, Brooklyn, 1929-52. First one-man exhibition at the Portland Art Museum 1933. In the 1930s painted pictures influenced by Milton Avery and Matisse, with simplified compositions and flat areas of colour; co-founder in 1935 with Gottlieb and others of The Ten, a group of Expressionist tendency. In association with Gottlieb, worked in a Surrealist idiom 1942-7, drawing upon the myths of antiquity as Jungian archetypes, and making watercolours and oils with calligraphic, biomorphic imagery related to Ernst and Miró, and horizontal zones of misty colour. Turned to complete abstraction in 1947, with large soft-edged areas of colour, adopting by 1950 a symmetrical presentation. Taught at the California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, with Clyfford Still in the summers of 1947 and 1949; collaborated with Baziotes, Hare, Motherwell and later Newman in running the art school The Subjects of the Artist 1948-9; and also taught in the Art Department at Brooklyn College 1951-4. His later works became more sombre in colour. Died in New York by his own hand.
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.657