Larry Poons

By: Gary Panter
October 1, 2014

Nuns standing in front of a Poons painting, c. 1963
Nuns standing in front of a Poons painting, c. 1963

LARRY POONS (born 1937) was born in Tokyo and grew up outside New York, where in the early Sixties he first made his name and impact. He painted some of the most optically giving, mind-teasing, unabashedly beautiful paintings of the Twentieth Century. The optical qualities of Poons’s paintings associated him with Op Art, while their synthetic and gorgeous nature associated him with Pop Art’s candy-colored crew. He painted fields of ellipses acting on canvases of flat, bright, color; the dot placement suggested to the viewer that there was an underlying organizational system at work… but that you’d never be able to figure it out. Though hailed in some quarters for these early innovations, Poons was also criticized for making work that was so beautiful — and therefore decorative and un-macho. Over time, Poons made his ellipses gigantic — looming and ugly; he let his pretty colors go cruddy and turn to mud; and for the past 30 years, he’s poured hundreds of gallons of monochromatic sludge over giant canvases, simulating fuck-you lava flows. He also became a motorcycle racer. Go Larry!

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HILO HERO ITEMS by GARY PANTER: Tadanori Yokoo | Peter Saul | Yasuji Tanioka | H.C. Westermann | Öyvind Fahlström | Cal Schenkel | Eduardo Paolozzi | Tod Dockstader | Yayoi Kusama | Walter Lantz | Richard Lindner | Shigeru Sugiura | Todd Rundgren | Yoshikazu Ebisu | Jim Nutt | Judy Henske | Tod Dockstader | Jesse Marsh | Tetsumi Kudo | Larry Poons | Ed Sanders | Dick Briefer | Dick Briefer

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Dizzee Rascal, Walter Matthau, Phyllis Chesler, Richard Corben.
READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).

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Art, HiLo Heroes