Abstract Symbolism Kenneth Callahan

Callahan was a somewhat controversial figure within the arts community, with some artists seeing conflict of interest in his positions as artist, curator, and critic. In 1953 he ceased working at SAM. Later that same year Life magazine ran an article with large color photos extolling Callahan, Graves, Anderson, and Tobey as the «Mystic Painters of the Pacific Northwest».Callahan never considered himself to be a «mystic» painter. In writings and interviews he explained that he wasn't interested in symbolism; rather, he saw his work as being firmly rooted in nature and art history — as it plainly was through the early part of his career. By the early 1960s, however, his style had become much more complex — and seemingly rife with symbolism. «He liked muscle-bound grandeur,» wrote arts journalist Regina Hackett, «but released the figures who displayed it from the confines of gravity. Full of light, many hover on the edge of floating away.» Over time, figurative elements — men, horses, trees, insects — disappeared from his work, in favor of pure abstraction, but still, said Callahan, «It is nature, with its unlimited varied form, structure, and color that constitutes the vital living force from which art must basically stem.»










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