Composition IV, no date, 2018

Miami Beach 2018
Hirschl & Adler Modern
Work on Paper
Tempera on paper
37.8 x 50.5 (cm)
14.9 x 19.9 (inch)
The German-American artist Winold Reiss defied categorization. Steeped in the German arts-and-crafts tradition with its permeable boundaries between fine and applied arts, Reiss bucked the hierarchical world of American art, practicing an array of artistic disciplines with an excellence and panache that few could rival. Reiss’s heightened sense of style is typified by an important subset of the artist’s oeuvre – what Reiss called his ‘imaginatives’ – art that ccupies a middle ground between total abstraction and transcriptive naturalism. These modernist compositions are informed by geometry, varying in their use of recognizable references and ranging in palette from restricted black and white to vibrant color. An early leader of the Harlem Renaissance and interpreter of America’s jazz aesthetic, Reiss’s ‘imaginatives’ of that period convey the exhilaration and urbanity of jazz in graphic form. The inclusion of African masks and other forms signal Reiss’s interest in non-Western arts and cultures, and his belief that a new American art could be formed out of their artistic traditions.