At the time William Baziotes painted Shadow in 1951 he was moving away from applying paint to canvas by brush and its visible strokes as building blocks of the picture. What gives an image like Shadow its ephemeral quality is the way Baziotes applied the paint by rubbing it into the canvas, thereby making the colors seem to emanate from the canvas itself, almost shimmering in an illusion movement. Evoking dream-like states in the mind of the viewer was also the business of French Symbolist poetry and Surrealism, two of Baziotes' interests/ Alfred H. Barr coined the term biomorphism for such works in MoMA's collection by Joan Miro and Isamu Noguchi Simply put, biomorphism as an abstract style that contains traces of organic forms drawn from nature.
In the years following World War II Baziotes often displayed his work work with the Abstract Expressionists in New York; the difference was that Baziotes was not so eager to deny other visual elements in his work as his friends were. It has taken some time for critics to become comfortable with the landscape elements in Helen Frankenthaler's work, for instance. Unlike Frankenthaler (1928-2011) whose career was long, Baziotes, born in 1912, died from lung cancer at the age of fifty in 1963.
His most famous picture, painted in 1952, is The Flesh Easters in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here his compelling interest in surrealism is visible in the wavy forms merging with an apparently human head.
Image: William Baziotes - Shadow, 1951, Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute, Utica.