James Bishop

Text by Carter Ratcliff

Throughout his career, James Bishop has engaged with European and American traditions of postwar abstraction while developing a subtle, poetic, and highly unique visual language of his own. Alternating between—and at times interweaving—painting and drawing, Bishop’s works explore the ambiguities and paradoxes of material opacity and transparency, flatness and spatiality, as well as linear tectonics and loosely composed forms. Privileging the nuanced and expressive qualities of color and scale, Bishop’s luminous works have been described by American poet and art critic John Ashbery as “half architecture, half air.”

In the early 1960s, Bishop developed the vocabulary of color and form that would characterize his paintings on canvas for over twenty years: a reduced but rich palette, the employment of subtle architectonic abstractions, and a consistently large, square format that reinforces the viewer’s sense of scale and space. By overlapping thin but radiant veils of monochrome color, Bishop creates discrete geometric frameworks that suggest doors, windows, cubes, or what the artist describes as an uncertain scaffolding. 

Published to coincide with James Bishop’s first solo presentation in New York since 1987, which was held at David Zwirner in New York in 2014, this volume includes works spanning the artist’s prolific career. The catalogue presents numerous large paintings on canvas from the 1960s to the early 1980s, as well as small-scale paintings on paper, to which Bishop turned exclusively in 1986 and which he continues to produce today. In addition, the book includes details and installation views, providing further context for understanding the artist’s work.

Image: James Bishop, Untitled, 1962-1963


Publisher: David Zwirner Books

Artists: James Bishop

Contributors: Carter Ratcliff

Designer: David Chickey

Printer: Graphicom, Verona, Italy

Publication Date: 2015

Binding: Hardcover

Dimensions: 9 3/4 x 11 1/4 in (24.8 x 28.6 cm)

Pages: 80

Reproductions: 36 color

ISBN: 9781941701034

Retail: $50 US & Canada | £32 | €44

Status: Available

James Bishop

Born in 1927 in Neosho, Missouri, Bishop studied painting at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and Black Mountain College, North Carolina, and art history at Columbia University, New York, before traveling to Europe in 1957 and settling in Blévy, France. His work has been the subject of major museum exhibitions: in 1993-94, James Bishop, Paintings and Works on Paper traveled from the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, to the Galerie national de Jeu de Paume, Paris, and the Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Münster; and in 2007-08, James Bishop. Malerie auf Papier/Paintings on Paper traveled from the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München, Munich, to the Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop, Germany, and The Art Institute of Chicago.

All James Bishop books

Carter Ratcliff

Carter Ratcliff is an award-winning poet and art critic. His first gallery reviews appeared in ARTnews in 1969. Since then his writing has been published by major art journals in the United States and abroad, including Art in America, Artforum, Modern Painters, Tate, Art Presse, and Artstudio, and in catalogues published by American and European museums, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and The Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati. Ratcliff has taught at New York University; Hunter College, New York; and the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting & Sculpture. He received a Poets Foundation grant in 1969. His other awards include an Art Critics grant, NEA, 1972 and 1976; a Guggenheim Fellowship, 1976; and the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism, College Art Association, 1987. His first novel, Tequila Mockingbird, was published in 2015.?