James Gahagan

September Song

1957 

oil on canvas
30 x 25 inches

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The art and life of James E. Gahagan, Jr. has been one of the more widely known secrets of the art world. A painter’s painter, he has achievements as a colorist that stand with those of his mentor Hans Hofmann, as well as with other pioneers like Robert delaunay and Henri Matisse, who developed color as the primary vehicle of form and meaning.

Gahagan’s sensitivity to color relationships and the dynamics of spatial movement and tension developed during his years as Associate director of the Hans Hofmann School and as Hofmann’’s assistant during the creation of two major mosaics murals in New York City.

Born in Brooklyn, Gahagan became a moving force among his contemporaries in the Fifties, when he helped found the James Gallery in 1954. As a principal organizer and the first elected President of the Artist Tenants Association, Gahagan led a successful strike by artists to win zoning for artists’ lofts in New York in 1962, resulting in the establishment of Westbeth and other early artist’’s buildings.

Gahagan taught painting at Pratt Institute (1965 – 1971), Columbia university Graduate School of the Arts (1968-1971), and Goddard College (1971-1979), where he became Chairman of the Art department. He opened the James Gahagan School of Fine Arts in Woodbury, VT during the summers of 1971-1974. He was invited to be a Visiting Artist at Notre dame university, IN (1978) and at Humboldt State university, CA (1989).

He was invited to teach at the founding of the prestigious Vermont Studio Center (1984-1999) and in 1991-92, became the Artist/Critic at the International Art Workshop in New Zealand.

After serving in the Navy during WW II, Gahagan attended Goddard College, Plainfield, VT (1947-51) where he studied with Richard Lippold. He moved to New York, becoming involved with the ten burgeoning abstract movement, joining Han Hofmann’’s school shortly afterwards. He exhibited extensively in New York, Provincetown and periodic exhibitions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Paris.

His work was chosen for a 1957 travelling exhibition to 64 nations, sponsored by the united Nations and selected by Art News for a 1959 exhibit of twelve Americans in Spoleto, Italy, the same year he was awarded a Longview Purchase Grant. Gahagan participated in the 1993 Copenhagen group show “uSA on Paper” in denmark. His work is represented in the public collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the university of Art Museum in Berkeley, among others.

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