1933 Ed Garman entered the University of New Mexico. While working
for the university theater, he discovered the work of Adolph Appia
and Edward Gordon Craig, turn-of-the-century pioneers of modern stage
sets whose stark, simple designs opened Garman's eyes to the dramatic
possibilities of structural form. Later, working for a WPA project,
Garman sorted pottery shards at an archaeological dig and became fascinated
with the patterns and arrangements of Indian designs.
two discoveries shaped his growing enthusiasm for abstraction, as
did a 1935 retrospective of van Gogh's paintings at the Art Institute
of Chicago. Shortly thereafter, Garman completed his first group of
semi-abstract paintings. Yet Garman was not convinced that his own
future lay in abstraction. Consequently, he went to Mexico for six
months in 1937 to study murals by Diego Rivera and Clemente Orozco.
He found himself unimpressed, however, by the nationalistic context
of the Mexican muralists. He turned instead to art history, seeking
in the art of the past the clues which would enable him to better
understand his own reactions to his environment.
was fully conscious that becoming an artist in the 1930s was a risky
Great Depression was in full swing. Contemplating going into
the arts as a lifetime profession was the ultimate in an
hope and a guarantee of economic and social suicide. Then,
of all things, to choose an area of interest in painting
so coldly received as was abstract painting was yet another
step into the twilight zone."
the challenges were exciting. Garman compared them to the feelings
of a scientist "discovering an improbable life form that seemed
to contradict all other forms of life and yet lived. Abstraction was
like thatit lived."
joined the Transcendental Painting Group in 1941, several years
the group's formation. By this time he had become close friends
with Raymond Jonson, who encouraged the younger artist to continue
his painting and his ideas. But World War II intervened, and in
late 1943 Garman left New Mexico to serve with the U.S. Navy in
Despite little time to paint, his ideas about abstraction continued
to germinate, fueled in part by the progressive exhibitions he
at the San Francisco Museum of Art. By the mid 1940's, Garman had
developed a sophisticated theory he called "dynamic painting" in
which varied empathetic responses could be stimulated through
elements of movement and its counterpoint, rest.
war had a tremendous impact on Garman's artistic ideas: "[It]
has shown me more than ever the terrific need for an idealism
is truly transcendental. It has shown me more than ever the poverty
of spiritual beauty in the world. . ."
contrast to Raymond Jonson, who worked intuitively, Garman conceived
his paintings in intellectual terms, using geometries, rather than
sinuous, rhythmic forms as the structural basis for his work. In Composition
#261, for example, brightly colored geometric shapes dance in
a yellow field, creating rhythms through color rather than through
described his artistic development as steady and consistent. His
evolved "from a highly simplified and almost primitive realism
through the various shades of the abstract to the nonobjective." In
his later work he has continued to explore movement and rest through
geometric form and has retained the vitality of color so important
in his paintings of the 1940s.
Ed Garman was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1914, and grew up in
the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.
lives and works in California.