It wasn’t until November of 2007, when, at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery in London I first saw some Bram Bogart paintings. I had seen reproductions, but only about a year earlier. Despite his strong profile in Europe, having numerous shows over a period of more than fifty years, it is shocking that he is not better known in the UK and America. Having met Bogart at the opening of another display at Bernard Jacobson in September 2009, which focused mainly on larger works, it is even more surprising that at eighty-eight the frailties of his advanced age have not dampened his creativity. There were two new smaller pieces that offered sumptuous colour and a mind-boggling power of simplicity, which can only come with experience.
In Bram Bogart we have an artist who has been going strong for half a century. The heavy plaster-like material has served him well throughout this time. There have been many changes, but the distinctive style has remained. This is an unusual achievement, which I can only partly explain by pointing to the influences he has incorporated into his art. Throughout, there has been the strong adherence to a European Matter painting aesthetic, but much influence has also been drawn from American art. I see similarities with Rothko and Hofmann. From the Colour Field era, there’s the symmetry of Noland and the edges/spaces of Olitski. More recently the colourfulness and aggression of New New has surely found its way into Bogart’s strange mixture.
When I first saw Bogart’s paintings, it reminded me of how I reacted to seeing an exhibition of paintings by another never say die octogenarian, Hans Hofmann, at the Tate Gallery in 1988. Bedazzled by the colour, texture and scale, these were more than just big canvases with strong colour and large surface sweeps. They had a life of their own; they dominated the space. Bram Bogart’s pictures also have great impact on a space. Their physical presence, uncomplicated colours and child-like play doughish nature take your eye on a journey of joy and discovery.