Alan Uglow was born in Luton, England, in 1941 and died in New York in 2011 (at the age of 69). The son of a master carpenter, he attended art school from a young age and became increasingly drawn towards non-figuration during the 1960s, at a time when abstract art was still relatively unpopular in Britain. Following a visit to New York in 1968, Uglow made a permanent move across the Atlantic in 1969, and settled in the then burgeoning artist neighborhood of SoHo.
Uglow quickly gained a reputation as an “artist’s artist.” He sustained himself as a printmaker for artists including Jim Dine, while working slowly and patiently on his own paintings. Characterized by a meticulous, even intuitive, attention to scale and composition, these are often monochromatic or chromatically neutral. Piet Mondrian was a great inspiration for Uglow throughout his career, as were Alberto Giacometti, Barnett Newman, and Ad Reinhardt.
Working in series that evolved slowly over decades, Uglow always remained faithful to his central vision and his practice was unaffected by the increasingly commercial demands of the art scene in the 1980s and 1990s. His paintings revolve around a subtle dialogue between notions of center and edge, and are executed gradually, with several layers of paint. They appear at once calm and dynamic, and simultaneously suggest emptiness and ground.
Writing for the exhibition catalogue accompanying Uglow’s 1992 exhibition at the Kölnischer Kunstverein, curated by Marianne Stockebrand, Saul Ostrow notes:
“His work constitutes a praxis, a unity of theory and practice which allows each element of painting to interrogate the other as well as itself. Uglow has used the conflicting, often contradictory traditions of geometric abstract art as a means to re-establish painting’s critical functions, and the artist’s self-criticality….The resulting paintings are eloquently silent, indicating that painting is a trope from which we may learn to question the manner in which we have learned to see the world.”1
1 Saul Ostrow, “Getting it Right: Once More with Meaning,” Alan Uglow. Exh. cat. (Cologne: Kölnischer Kunstverein, 1992), pp. 49-50.