Howard Mehring is best known for his hard-edged geometrical color field paintings and screenprints. But he first proved his worth as a painter in far more abstract expressionist work.
This untitled composition in Gray, Black, Red, White, and Cranberry is one of the very few of Mehring’s early works which remain extant. With layering of paint spread on an unprimed canvas, the work is simultaneously bright and dark, ordered and chaotic.
The artist was close friends with fellow Washingtonian artist James F. Hilleary, to whom Mehring gifted numerous works. There came an occasion during which Mehring, with Hilleary in Hilleary’s studio, suddenly picked up a pencil and scribbled out his name on all of the canvases he had given Hilleary, convinced that his work was unworthy. Time has proved Mehring wrong.