One of the most important Dutch artists of the Twentieth Century, Jan Schoonhoven (1914-1994) is mostly known for his investigation in light, form, pattern and volume through his serialized, white works, although his artistic maturity followed many developments. Starting with a style influenced by German Expressionism, in the 1940’s the artist produced abstract watercolours and ink drawings reminiscent of Paul Klee. During the 1950’s he made drawings and painting in the tachiste style. He later co-founded the Nederlandse Informele Groep and in the 1960’s the Nul-groep (Nul group), with Armando, Henderikse and Peeters, a branch of the Zero movement that sought to reduce art to the zero degree by using common materials and overall symplification of the compositions.
In the late 1950’s Schoonhoven began to produce tachiste paintings and drawings, to eventually realise his papier-mâché and cardboard reliefs, initially coloured and irregular and then progressively white and symmetrically geometric. Parallelly he began to produce ink drawings based on a repeated pattern “whose integration of meticulous control and automatic gesture exemplify the artist’s ability to balance rigorous order with the expressiveness of the hand” (quote from).
His work was handmade; his geometries were full of personal vagaries and quite different from the machined perfection of, say, Sol LeWitt, another artist prone to white grids. Even when he made reliefs using tightly stacked peices of raw corrugated cardboard, Mr. Schoonhoven’s work has a tidy, miniaturist look. Unsurprisingly, “Motel” a relief-like painting from 1956 and the earliest piece here, uses cardboar to create linear traceries that suggest Paul Klee. (Roberta Smith, The New York Times – review of Schoonhoven retrospective at David Zwirner Gallery)
Images via: David Zwirner (Publication) and The Eyes They See