Ed Clark in studio, Dwight Carter, 1975
Show image caption Ed Clark in his New York studio, 1975 © The Estate of Ed Clark. Photo: Dwight Carter.

Ed Clark

First Floor Galleries

Turner Contemporary is pleased to present the first institutional exhibition in Europe dedicated to pioneering artist Ed Clark.

Saturday 25 May

Saturday 25 May - Sunday 1 September 2024

Turner Contemporary Rendezvous, Margate, Kent CT9 1HG

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High-energy action paintings from an abstract pioneer.

Financial Times

Canvases are at once free and composed, finely balanced between the majestic splashiness of abstract expressionism and a more ironic 1960s mood. A journey to New York’s golden age.

The Guardian

Turner Contemporary presents the first institutional exhibition in Europe dedicated to pioneering artist Ed Clark (1926-2019). The exhibition unites paintings and works on paper from the 1940s to 2000s, including loans from The Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum and Detroit Institute of Arts, many of which have not been seen outside the USA.

Though late to receive international acclaim, Clark’s contributions to contemporary art were significant, notably through his innovative push broom technique and shaped canvases. Today, Clark is recognised as a groundbreaking figure within the New York School of Abstraction.

Born in New Orleans and raised in Chicago, Clark used credits from his G.I. Bill to attend the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago from 1947 to 1951. In 1952, he furthered his studies at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, where he would return to make work for the rest of his life. Clark’s experiences in the bohemian quarter of Montparnasse and, later, New York’s downtown scene deeply influenced his shift towards abstraction and working on a large scale. In 1956, he adopted the use of a 48-inch push broom to allow him to drive paint across the canvas with great force, a technique known as ‘the big sweep’ and exemplified in works such as Locomotion 1963. On his return to the US that year, Clark settled in New York, where he co-founded the influential Brata Gallery and created Untitled 1957, a seminal piece in the evolution of shaped painting and a highlight of the exhibition’s section devoted to Clark’s early canvases.

Travel and how a sense of place profoundly influenced Clark’s work will be at the heart of the exhibition. In 1971, visiting artist Jack Whitten in Crete proved transformative. As the Mediterranean light inspired a new colour palette, so it motivated him to seek out different lights and atmospheres, including in Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, China and Japan, as well as across the US. This theme is explored in depth throughout the exhibition with works on paper and paintings including Untitled 1970 – an example of his oval-shaped canvases first made in Vétheuil, France – Untitled from Louisiana Series 1978-80 and the dazzling Ife Rose 1974.

Set against the expansive North Sea, Turner Contemporary is uniquely placed to explore how, as one contemporary critic observed, Clark’s canvases registered his “sensitivity to the pigmentation of the earth and the colour of the skies”.

The exhibition concludes with key examples of paintings from the mid-1980s to 2000s, a period when Clark brought new structures to his compositions with sweeping rainbows, tubes, and waves of colour.   Seen together, these works underscore Clark’s enduring fascination with his material. In his own words, “The paint is the subject.”

I have never seen the galleries at Turner Contemporary look so good. The North Gallery in particular, flooded with cool light through high ribbon windows, could have been made with this group of paintings by Ed Clark in mind. A series of shimmering horizontals, rippling with colour, lead the eye from one canvas to the next. It is as if sea and air and light were distilled into paint.

Contemporary Arts Society

His palette is at once dissonant and harmonious and his broad, broom-size brushstrokes convey remarkable visual eloquence.


He made paintings distinguished by their energy, drama and generous strokes of seductive colour.

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