Born 1925 in New York, died 1985 in New York, US
College of the City, New York, US 1943
Yale University, New Haven, US
At the age of 18 Julian dropped out of Yale in order to paint and write in his home city. Less than two years later, in 1945, he would earn his first exhibition ever, at Peggy Guggenheim’s groundbreaking gallery “Art of this Century” alongside Rothko, Pollock, Motherwell, Kline and De Kooning. He would continue to exhibit at other important venues (MoMA in New York, Pittsburgh International Carnegie Institute, Bernard-Ganymede, Tibor de Nagy) through to 1958. Although inspired by this prominent group of abstract expressionist painters, fascination with Beck’s lively paintings derives from his variety of techniques and styles. He preserved “his autodidact’s willingness to try anything”. Painting was a joy for him – he stated in an interview for his first solo exhibition that the blank paper made him feel “like a child – on the beach – all afternoon ahead”.
Group show, Art of This Century – Peggy Guggenheim Gallery, New York, US
Solo show, Paintings – Julian Beck, Bernard-Ganymede Gallery, New York, US, catalogue forward by writer Paul Goodman
Group show, Recent Drawings U.S.A, Museum of Modern Art, New York, US 1956
Group show, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, US
Group show, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, US
The Living Theatre at Cooper Union, Cooper Union, New York, US Curated by Art Historian and friend Dore Ashton
Solo Show, Julian Beck: Paintings & Drawings 1944 – 1957, UBU Gallery, New York, US, catalogue with introduction by Andrew Nadelson
Living Theatre. Labyrinths of the Imaginary, Castel Sant’ Elmo, Napoli, IT curated by Giuseppe Morra, Achille Bonito Oliva and Lorenzo Mango
The Fondazione Morra in Naples, an established cultural foundation, holds exclusive rights to authenticate the paintings of Julian Beck and to catalog and archive the works of the Living Theatre.
The Living Theatre
(founded in 1947)
Beck is best known as the founder – along with his wife, actress Judith Malina – of the avant-garde performance group “The Living Theatre” and this is where he would fuel his artistic fervor until the end of his life, promoting ideas of anarcho- pacifism and liberalism throughout Europe, South America and the US.
Its work such as ”The Connection (1959),” ”The Brig (1964)” and ”Antigone (1967)” – brought social issues and audience involvement to the fore. Influenced greatly by Artaud’s theatre of cruelty, the plays sought to shock the audience out of complacency. Going to the theatre was not necessarily purely entertaining. They intended it to be uncomfortable experience. In “The connection” real drugged up junkies would ask the audience for money in others, the actors would shout at them angrily imploring them to do something about the Vietnam war or to storm a prison.
The theatre company constantly found themselves being banned from places. In 1968 the mayor of Avignon ordered them to leave as he complained that their hippie life style was disturbing the town, noting their frighteningly disheveled appearance in particular. In 1971 Beck and Malina and 11 other cast members were expelled from Brazil after being arrested for possession of large amounts of marijuana. They would even have to leave New York from 1974-84 and go on a nomadic tour around Europe, as the company was closed by the Internal Revenue Service as the couple owed the state $23’000.
Yet this was a price they were willing to pay. True anarcho-pacifists, they believed in striving for a better free world through experimentation. ”We insisted on experimentation,” Mr. Beck once said. ”That was an image for a changing society. If one can experiment in theater one can experiment in life.”
Play writings with Judith Malina
Paradise Now: A Collective Creation of the Living Theatre, Random House
Frankenstein: A Collective Creation of the Living Theatre, La Fiacola
A Collective Creation of the Living Theatre, Belibaste
Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism: A Collective Creation of the Living Theatre, Fag Rag
Songs of the Revolution: Thirty-Six to Eighty-Nine, Union Generale d’Editions
Film & Television
The Cotton Club, Francis Ford Coppola
Poltergeist II : The Other Side, Brian Gibson
Julian Beck, text by Paul Goodman, exhibition catalogue published by
Bernard Ganymede Gallery, New York, US
The Living Theater looks back before resuming its avante-garde ways, by Gerald Fraser, The New York Times, published on 12 October 1986
Julian Beck: Paintings and Drawings, 1944-1958, Introduction by Andres Nadelson, exhibition catalogue published by UBU Gallery, New York, US
Art review of Julian Beck’s exhibition at UBU Gallery, New York, by Grace Glueck, The New York Times, published on 1 June 2001
Julian Beck: in the Name of Painting, Gilberto Ganzer, GianCarlo Pagliasso and Tom Walker, Pasian di Prato (Udine): Museo Civico d’ Arte, IT