John Frank: Abstracted Figures

From his early  years and throughout his life, John Frank embodied what it meant to be an artist.

He worked, he observed, he taught, and he painted. The development of his art exemplifies the transition from abstract expressionism to the reappearance of a figurative element and with it, the expression of meaning. He created his own unique melding of post-expressionism with a freer representation of the figure moving through an abstract field of line, texture and color. 

Frank was a major influence at PAAM and his joy in teaching and working with students inspired several generations of young artists. He once said, “I can’t imagine getting up each morning and thinking about how to further my career. It would be such a distraction from painting itself.” He believed that art could be a focus for a deeper view of things, a kind of communion between people and between cultures. 

John Frank was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. After serving in Korea, he spent a year living in a Zen monastery in Kyoto, studying art and calligraphy. Returning to the United States, he majored in art at Columbia University and went on to receive his M.A. from Hunter College. He spent his summers in Provincetown as a studio assistant to Robert Motherwell. During this time, he was also befriended by Franz Kline, Philip Guston, and Mark Rothko, and began showing his own work in Provincetown and New York City. Back in Asia on a Fulbright grant, he traveled to India and Nepal, studying the art and traditions of Buddhist culture, eventually serving as a consultant to India with the Educational Resource Center in New Delhi, and a Founder and Director of India-UNESCO Associated Schools.

Curator Robert Henry writes, “It’s no secret that the art world is evolving into a marketplace for financial speculation, raising a fundamental question about how we judge value. When value is determined solely by the number of dollars a work can bring at auction, we are moving toward a level of cupidity that leaves us all a little poorer. In the face of this, John Frank was an artist who addressed our innate need to find something beyond the merely material–a vital, and indeed, invaluable achievement.”