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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Herb Aach

Herb Aach, the last Modern Artist?
It's not all that unusual for me to praise an artist who was the first to create in a new style or who pioneered some new method or mode of painting or drawing. Sometimes such distinctions involve content areas or images and concepts taken together which breaks some new ground. Picasso is a good example on all those counts. It's far less common for an artist to be recognized as the last (or one of the last)  artist to work in some particular style or content area. There's little question as to when the era of modern art began and with which artist--Edouard Manet's 1863 Luncheon on the Grass. We could call it the first "art for art's sake" painting, important not for it's style or content but for its simple existence as a work of art. Now, having covered the beginning, When did Modern Art end? Which artist painted the last painting to be considered Modern Art? Few would question that Modern Art did end, but who ended it and when? Although I could probably nominate at least half-a-dozen artists for whom a reasonable case could be made for such an honor, I have a likely candidate--the 1970s German-American painter, Herb Aach.

Herb Aach as he evolved from Abstract Expression toward Minimalism.
As you can see from his Split Infinities series (top) painted over a period of years, Herb Aach was a colorist. And, given the simplicity of his geometric interactions, there's little doubt he would fit into the category of being a Minimalist, a type of art which, by any standard, marked the logical end of Modern Art, when style and content reached its logical conclusion--nothingness. Herb Aach was, of course, not the only painter to embrace Minimalism. However, most of those who did, saw the minimal "handwriting on the wall" and soon moved on to something more meaningful. Herb Aach likely would have done so as well, except for the fact that he was diagnosed with cancer about 1979, ending his painting career. He died in October, 1985, at the age of sixty-two. His end coincides very neatly with the last, dying gasps of Minimalism and with it, Modern Art.

Could one of these be the last Modern Art painting?
Being the astute, deeply committed colorist and minimalist he was, Herb Aach, it could be said that the artist actually was responsible for extending Minimalism by a few years in that the style reached its height in the early 1970s then quickly went into decline as artist began to move on toward figural painting, Pop, Op, multi-media, and all manner of conceptual art/sculpture for which the 1970s and 80s were most noted.

Goethe's color wheel 1809
Aach's painting style is known for its intense and well placed pigmentation, which stemmed from his deep interest in color theory and color relationships. Inspired by such interests, in 1971 Aach translated Johann Wolfgang Goethe's Theory of Colors. He also contributed articles involving color theory and practice and reviews to various arts publications. If we're satisfied to consider Herb Aach the last of the Minimalists and as such, the last of all Modern Artist, the question arises as to which of his paintings was the last. Unfortunately, few of Aach's paintings are reliably dated.
Three Muses, 1967, Herb Aach
(Could this be the last Modern Art painting?)

Split Infinity, 8BS, Herb Aach
(Or maybe this one?)

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