James Juthstrom (1925-2007) was a dedicated artist who lived and worked in a SoHo loft for 50 years creating paintings, drawings, etchings and sculpture ranging from abstract to figurative. Juthstrom was recognized by critics early on and included in numerous museum group exhibitions, including Whitney Museum of American Art, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Detroit Institute of the Arts and Brooklyn Museum. He also had several solo exhibitions at galleries, including Gallery G in New York, which received a review in the New York Times, Paul Schuster Art Gallery in Cambridge and Landmark Gallery in New York. A recent ARTnews review chronicles the rediscovery of this reclusive artist who moved in the circle of New York School artists and abstract expressionists.
In the 1950's Juthstrom studied at the Brooklyn Museum Art School focusing on line drawings and color relation similar to Milton Avery. Professor Bill Kienbusch (Modernist painter 1914-1980) described his work as 'very exciting, authentic, with true conviction' and Professor Reuben Tam (American Landscape painter, 1916-1991) wrote "Upon entering your exhibition I stood in a wonderful golden world where everything was radiant, strong and mysterious". Juthstrom’s drawings are very personal, meant as an artist’s explorations of his understanding of form and space.
In the early 1960's, James Juthstrom started moving further away from representational, towards a more intricate abstract expressionist style. His lines and strokes had been loose and his style painterly, until a time when he began to create enigmatic patterns of small circles or hatch marks on canvas and paper. On large canvases, measuring from eight feet across, to the largest at twenty seven feet across, the artist spent countless hours painting uncountable layers of an infinite maze of colored circles with hidden formations that become visible only under light.
This period also marks his interest in reflective pigments and their effects on the whole of the composition: large paintings are created from a pattern of gold leaf surfaces, while many others incorporate various types of reflective patterns. Juthstrom's paintings reflect his fascination with the cosmos, mathematical formulas and biology, interspersed with personal anguish in his passion for art. This fascination led him to take another step, namely to create his own elliptical stretchers which he continued doing through the 1970's. The series of elliptical paintings reflects the creativity of an artist who was working in a period when the square canvas started to be felt as a constrictive shape, too academic, which had to be altered in order to enable the artist to express personal vision.
Drawings from the 1960's and 70's are masterful works in minute detail, using a variety of techniques, suggestive of outsider artists and evoking Mark Tobey's mystical paintings based on interpretation of a spiritual reality.
This period also marked a return toward a different type of representational painting than the one he practiced in the 1950's. This series represents a combination of his Abstract Expressionist techniques with the quest for incorporating the figurative and representational, in a need for more compositional definition. James Juthstrom created a number of paintings that are structural, and represent his view of New York architecture. At first glance, they appear abstract and reveal the same technique of various layers of brush strokes with different colors. But on closer exam, they are in fact buildings or interiors, and there is almost always an object marking the orientation, like a clue hidden for the viewer. Sometimes, it is a fire escape ladder, but it can also be a stylized chair or anything else that points out the orientation. The same structural motif appears in the works on paper, a sign that structure and balance of space was something increasingly important for the artist.
Later in his life, Juthstrom created a different series of large scale paintings on canvas, a medium that is most representative of his career. His idiosyncratic depiction of his loft and the anonymous figures populating the deserted indoor spaces provide a unique psychological portrayal of an artist who has severed his ties to the world of commercialism. The paintings always depict the artist's studio with emphasis on the floorboard and a faceless figure, most likely the artist himself. Strange figures lurk in the backgrounds, watching the interior from behind screens; no faces are visible, except maybe as reflections. Often, the symbolic compositions disintegrate into pure color, line and form, reminiscent of fauvism. The narrative is always mysterious; the dystopic vision is most explicitly expressed in his color drawings, which can be seen as a diary of the secretive artist's inner experience, reflecting his decision to withdraw from the outside world and just create in the solitude of his studio.
For over 30 years of his life, Juthstrom had constantly removed himself from the commercialization of his artwork to focus on his art. The artist died in May 2007, leaving behind a legacy of his lifetime dedication. Since the release of his estate collection, museums and collectors are discovering the history of this brilliant artist.
WESTWOOD GALLERY NYC owns the Estate of James Juthstrom.
Artwork © WESTWOOD GALLERY NYC
2013 - Full Circle, Westwood Gallery, New York, NY
2011 - James Juthstrom paintings from the 1960s and 1970s, Westwood Gallery, NYC
2009 - James Juthstrom Retrospective, Westwood Gallery, New York, NY
1975 - Landmark Gallery, Landmark Gallery, New York, NY
1960 - Paul Schuster Art Gallery, Paul Schuster Art Gallery, Cambridge, MA
1957 - Gallery G, New York, NY
1958 - The Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY
1957 - Detroit Institute of the Arts, Detroit, MI
1956 - Brooklyn Museum Art School, New York, NY
1956 - Paul Schuster Art Gallery, Cambridge, MA
1956 - Young Americans, Gallery G, New York, NY
1956 - New York City Center Art Gallery, New York, NY
1956 - Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Painting, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1955 - Brooklyn Museum Art School, New York, NY
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City