An American abstract painter, Shirley Jaffe, studied art at Cooper Union Art School, which is located in New York. She paints colorful geometric abstractions. Jaffe’s abstractions remain inspired by Paris, which was her adopted hometown. The flat-yet-fluid figure-ground relationships of Jaffe’s compositions are reminiscent of Matisse’s stripped-down forms.
Jaffe was born on October 2nd, 1923. She worked in France. Initially, she started her career in a gestural abstract expressionist style. Later, in 1960, Jaffe changed her paintings to a more geometric style.
Tourists attracted to Paris by its history, culture, and romantic bohemian lifestyle. Moreover, they discovered that it was inexpensive, especially following the fall of the French franc in 1948. The GI Bill, which paid a monetary stipend and tuition at institutions including the École des Beaux-Arts, the Académie Julian, and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, was available to veterans. Additionally, it allowed the American writer Jaffe’s husband, who was working in Paris, to enroll in Sorbonne courses.
After the war, a large number of American artists apparently arrived in Paris (more than 300, according to reports from the 1950s). But only a small number remained for more than a few years.
The earlier work by Jaffe had incident and color filling the entire painting space, whereas the current piece maintained a fully painted-in, edge-to-edge surface. Flat-colored objects move and retreat seamlessly, with the exception of a few minor areas that could interpret as “on top of” or “behind,” without any gaps.
These new paintings have taut surfaces that are largely impermeable and rely on complex color interactions to reveal themselves. Two columns flank a medium grey central column in the 1969 artwork The Gray Center, each holding three equal-sized rectangular blocks. Along the upper third of the right-hand column, a thin reddish-orange strip remain placed over the grey band. Four of the six blocks are filled with diagonal shapes, one with rectangles. The final one could fill with four shortened and compressed semicircles. No two of the hues are exactly alike, even if several are extremely similar in hue and tone. In equal parts sensible and off-putting, the visual arrangement.