Getting Old: A Theatre of the Absurd
Harold Bruder’s thoughtful, cultivated paintings appear far removed from the conventional avant-gardisms with which they share historical time and place. Beginning in the 1950s, Bruder devised a contemporary realism that was both impromptu and disciplined. Firmly rooted in cosmopolitan New York, his portraits, still lifes, urban and classical scenes bespeak a measured, cultured consideration of the visual world that stands at an interesting remove from pop and photorealism, the two trends which it most closely parallels. Harold Bruder showed with a number of tony uptown venues, including the Forum Gallery, Armstrong Gallery and Kirk Askew’s debonair Durlacher Brothers where he shared wall space with Francis Bacon and Pavel Tchelitchew.
Now 88, the painter has undertaken paintings that consider ageing. Using articulated figure models as his actors, as he has done throughout his career, Bruder sets a tabletop stage to play this new game. The theatrical approach comes naturally to Bruder, the artist having been a widely published critic of classical opera from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Harold Bruder is one of a loosely bound group of realist painters steeped in abstract expressionism that arose in New York in the early 1960s. For these contrarian artists, the fundamentals of figuration proved grounded and thus, liberating. Realism was an attractive, radical response to a fast changing, politically-charged, art scene. Bruder was significant among younger realists in bridging the sensibilities of an older generation of predominantly European artists such as Christian Berard, with the more intimate and informal realism of Americans like Fairfield Porter. He was also pioneering in his use of photography, a practice that gives his early paintings a dignified spontaneity that neatly complements their painterly facility.
Bruder came of age during World War II in a working class Jewish community in the Bronx. Educated at New York City’s High School of Music and Art and The Cooper Union, he absorbed the liberal, striving cultural aspirations of this milieu. The artist lives on the upper Westside which he has painted as mannered social tableau – a fissile, forward-looking version of John Koch’s lush quotidian melancholy. (Bruder was a regular attendee of Koch’s legendary salon.) He has painted “en plein air” in the streets of Queens and the wooded suburbs of Westchester. For over thirty years Bruder taught at Queens College alongside such artists as Benny Andrews, Gabriel Laderman and Robert Birmelin, and was department chair. In addition to his achievements as a painter, Bruder is also a widely published critic of classical opera from the nineteenth