Ken Goehring

A tribute to one of Colorado’s foremost modernists.

For nearly three-quarters of the twentieth century, the heart of the art world in Colorado was in Colorado Springs. Artists were attracted to the then-charming town by its art-colony character, which was anchored by the Broadmoor Academy and its successor institution, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center School.

Beginning in the late 1940s and early '50s, there emerged from this haven a sophisticated group of modernist painters who embraced abstract expressionism. Surely one of the most important of these artists was Ken Goehring, who died early this month at the age of 88.

Goehring was born in Wisconsin but moved as a youngster to Detroit, where he received his initial art training at the Meinzinger School of Applied Art. Following military service during World War II, he married his wife, Margretta, in 1945, and the couple moved to Colorado Springs shortly thereafter. Goehring taught briefly at the University of Denver in 1947, then decided to continue his education at the CSFACS, enrolling in 1948. He first studied with Jean Charlot, later finding "a more kindred spirit" in Emerson Woelffer.

This period marks Goehring's transformation from a representational painter to an abstract one, as exemplified by an untitled oil on canvas from 1950 (pictured). In this piece, it's possible to see how he used the landscape as the basis for an abstract. Goehring had written that "realism is one way of reacting to a landscape, abstract interpretation is another." He did not refer to the landscape literally, but rather was inspired by it, sometimes merely suggesting it with a few horizontal lines.

Goehring began to exhibit his work nationally in the '50s and had a notable run into the next decade. Things slowed down after that, but he somehow got a second wind during the '70s, and his work from this time is part of several corporate and private collections here in Denver.

Ironies abound in the art world. How's this one? Although there was an abstract-expressionist scene in Colorado Springs, as represented by the work of the late Ken Goehring, the Denver Art Museum, which has a special focus on modernism, has never collected or exhibited the relevant local material. Is it just me, or does this seem odd?

 
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