Born in Poland in 1917, Harold Frank and his family immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island. He was raised in the tenements of New York and exhibited a talent for drawing at an early age. Feeling the angst of the great depression and World War II, his search for answers to the meaning of life led him to embrace abstract expressionism.
“I can live with the abstract. Life is a mystery.”
After a stint in the army, he traveled to Paris to study and returned to New York in the 50’s. His artistic training was impressive. He attended the New York Art Students League, the National Academy of Design, Pratt Institute, Chouinard Art Institute and UCLA where he was a colleague of Richard Diebenkorn, who had a lasting influence on his work. Other artists who deeply affected his creative philosophy included Matisse, Rouault, Picasso and De Kooning.
Also impressive is the list of his one-man and group exhibitions. He was shown internationally in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Aubonne, Switzerland, as well as throughout the United States from the 1960’s through the 80’s. Though he did not seek recognition as his reason to create, major awards also came his way (among them the Adolph and Clara Obrig Award and the Sudam Silver Medal from the National Academy of Design; the National Watercolor Society's Grumbacher Award; the John Marin Memorial Award in the Watercolor U.S.A. Show and a First Prize from the Laguna Beach Museum of Art).
His subject matter included pure abstracts, landscapes, still lifes and the male and female head and figure. As many artists have done before and after him, he explored variations of each subject, experimenting with changes in medium, technique, light and color. His remarkable paintings of his female models are overflowing with his emotions and developed into a vehicle for his abstract interpretations. Though his brushwork is quick and sure, he often labored over several pieces at the same time.
"Sometimes I work on three or four things at a time. I need large pots of paint with brushes in each one. I like to use mixed media because it affords new possibilities and surprises of texture and effect. The whites are a mixture of enamel and acrylic paint. I might, for example, have three cans of white paint of varying degrees of thickness. Once I came across a can of brown paint which had to have been fifteen years old. It was almost acidified. It was beautiful and I used the hell out of it.”
His colors are vibrant and extraordinary. Rooted in the creative freedom of the Fauvists, it is applied with a craftsman's confidence and expertise. He expressed his intense feelings while he painted:
"I use a fluid and fast brush stroke. My paints are wet. I draw while I paint like Soutine did. As I get caught up in a painting, there seems to be a chemical change--I feel a shortness of breath, an excitement. This is the exuberance of creativity. It is passionate, impulsive. Sometimes I should stop. My body cries out, ‘Stop, stop,’ but I say, ‘no, no, I cannot stop.’”
Frank’s energy and obsession with his art combined to produce an atmosphere of excitement and creativity rarely approached by other artists of his generation. He was intensely absorbed in the act of painting. His extensive education in the history of art and artists, their work and techniques led him to explore their philosophies. He kept many clippings of quotes of artists as well as examples of their work. His scrapbooks also contain photos from his exhibitions as well as figures of women upon which he constantly doodled with modernistic lines. He eloquently described his feelings as he immersed himself in the creative process:
"When I stand at a canvas I know what I am doing. I am both humble and proud. I am both knowing and not knowing. I am strong and fragile. I am all of those things."
Harold Frank, Abstract Expressionist, 1921-1995, by Sandie Stern, Millenium Twelve Two, 2001.
Born: Poland, 1917; Died: Los Angeles, California, 1995;
Education: National Academy of Design, New York, 1936; Art Students League, New York, 1937; Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York; Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles; University of California (Los Angeles)
Selected One-Man Exhibitions: Savage Gallery, London, England, 1960; Galerij Werking, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1960; Ardail-Castro Gallery, Paris, France, 1960; Pasadena Art Musuem, Pasadena, California, 1962; Ryder Gallery, Los Angeles, California, 1964; Ankrum Gallery, Los Angeles, California, 1964; Gallerie Chantepierre, Aubonne, Switzerland, 1966; Haggenmmaker Gallery, Beverly Hills, California, 1966; Irene Neuman Galleries (with Ernest Halpern), Los Angeles, California, 1968; Emerson Gallery, Encino, California, 1973; Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, California, 1977; Chester House Gallery, Chester, Vermont, 1977; L'Atelier Gallerie, Carmel, California, 1978; Upstairs Downstairs, Laguna Beach, California, 1979; International Student Center, UCLA, 1984; Robert Zehil Gallery, Beverly Hills, California, 1986; Front Porch/Human Arts Gallery, West Los Angeles, California, 1987; Soho Gallery, Studio City, California, 2002 (first posthumous exhibition).
Selected Group Exhibitions: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, 1959 ;National Water Color Society Traveling Exhibition, 1965-1968, 1971-1973; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California, 1966; Municipal Art Gallery (Barnsdall Park), Los Angeles, California, 1969; KCET Television Auction, Los Angeles, California, 1968, 1969; Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, California, 1971, 1972; Water Color USA, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1980; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, 1970, 1975; Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, Missouri, 1977-1979; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, 1977-1979; William Grant Still Community Arts Center, "Artists Against Hunger," Los Angeles, California, 1985; Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, California, 1988; Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Beverly Hills, California, 1992.
Selected Awards: John Marin Memorial Award, Watercolor USA, 1968; Honor Award, University of Judaism, School of Fine Arts, Los Angeles, California, 1969; Certificate of Merit, National Academy of Design, New York, 1975 All California Show, Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Laguna Beach, California, 1976; Grumbacher Award, National Watercolor Society, 1976; The Adolph and Clara Obrig Prize, National Academy of Design, New York, 1977, 1978; Miles Blatt Award, National Watercolor Society, 1979; Certificate of Merit, Watercolor USA Honor Society, 1986.
Selected Reviews: Leverque, Jean-Jacques. "Eloge de l'effervescence," Sens Plasticque, 1961; Carles, Henry Galy. "Les Exhibitions a Paris," Aujourd'hui, 1961; Who's Who in Art, 1971-1972; Johnson, Judy, "Poetic Overflow," Southwest Art, June, 1980; Bordeau, Jean-Luc. "A Feminine Ideal,", Robert Zehil Gallery, Exhibition Catalogue, 1986; Los Angeles Times, 1965, 1985; Welles, Eleanor. Artscene, Los Angeles, January, 1987; Mugnaini, Joseph. Expressive Drawing, A Schematic Approach, 1989.