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Untitled Abstract, 1954

Untitled Abstract, 1954

(1915 – 1999)

Julius Tobias, a Manhattan painter and sculptor who was best known for the abstract, gallery-filling Minimalist environments he created in the 1970′s, died on June 16 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Manhattan. He was 83.

Mr. Tobias was born in Manhattan, dropped out of school during the Depression and fought as a bombardier with the Air Force in Europe in World War II. His interest in art had formed early, and he returned to Paris on the G.I. bill after the war to study art with Fernand Leger, whose politically charged humanism had a lasting effect on his work.

Moving back to New York, Mr. Tobias explored Abstract Expressionist and Constructivist styles. In the 1960′s he produced wall-size all-white paintings, which evolved into cubicle-like structures, often holding geometric sculptural forms, upright or suspended horizontal beams and curblike bars. These forms gradually increased in size and weight and were exhibited by themselves in the gallery. The curblike bars grew into cast-concrete barrier walls that prevented easy movement around the gallery.

Such work later assumed ceremonial implications, taking on the shape of crosses and rows of church pews. In the 80′s, after years of abstraction, Mr. Tobias returned to figurative painting and a socially conscious content. The new work was dark and expressionistic, with repeated images of stacked bodies. It reflected both his memories of war, with specific references to the Holocaust, and his perception of escalating violence in the late 20th century.

In the 90′s, he began a series of abstract geometric black paintings. He showed a group of them at the Pardo Sheehan gallery last spring, his first exhibition of paintings in Manhattan in 40 years.

Mr. Tobias had his first New York solo show in 1959 and several at Max Hutchinson Gallery and 55 Mercer Street in the 70′s. A traveling survey of his work was organized by the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1992.

His work is in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University in Ithaca. He received two Guggenheim fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner awards and National Endowment for the Arts grants.

He is survived by a daughter, Suzanne Tobias of Manhattan.

Above fro the New York Times Obituary of the artist.
‘Julius Tobias, 83, Abstract Artist Known for Minimalist Sculptures’
June 25th, 1999