John Outterbridge, Sculpted Form (1962), mixed media on panel

Staff Writer
John Outterbridge, Sculpted Form (1962), mixed media on panel
Against a backdrop of earthy browns, tans, and ochres, an amorphous shape, like a skeletal backbone, stands freely, its long form rising from an almost cloven-hoof-like footing. Its spindly shape expands into a series of three bulbous forms, like three individual vertebra along a spinal column. This figure in the roughly 1-by-3-foot painting Sculpted Form (1962) was created by African American artist John Outterbridge (1933-2020) near the end of a career dominated by one medium and his transition into working with other materials.
“At this point in his career, he was a painter,” says local art dealer Aaron Payne, owner of Aaron Payne Fine Art. “And most of the paintings from this period are somewhat surreal and work within a limited color range, mostly hues of brown.”
Outterbridge’s painting is included in the Payne-curated How I see it: African American Abstraction (1960-1980), which is on view at the Historic Santa Fe Foundation’s El Zaguán property (545 Canyon Road, Suite 2, 505-983-2567, historicsantafe.org) through June 24.
Sculpted Form was created in Chicago at a time of civil unrest that was affecting the nation’s Black communities.
“I was attracted to this painting for its surreal qualities, as well as for its title, Sculpted Form,” Payne says. “The title reveals the artist’s interest in sculpture and was painted just before he would move to Los Angeles and begin his career as a sculptor.”
In Los Angeles, Outterbridge created a series of three-dimensional works made from the debris collected from the streets of L.A. after the Watts riots of 1965. His practice placed him at the forefront of a resurgence in the art of assemblage. Although Sculpted Form is a painting, Outterbridge’s tactile applications of paint lend his subject a sense of grounded, tangible, sculptural presence.
“I also like that the work has a very heavy impasto, so while it is made in a two-dimensional format, it is sculpted in paint and begins to move off of the surface and inhabit a three-dimensional space,” Payne says. 
Staff Writer
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