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Ed Clark was a significant figure of the New York School, credited with major contributions to Abstract Expressionism including the use of shaped canvases and the substitution of his paintbrush with a push broom. Born in New Orleans and raised in Chicago, Clark left high school to join the military during World War II. Upon returning from duty, Clark attended the Art Institute of Chicago and used the GI Bill to sail across the Atlantic to Paris in 1952, where he studied for a year at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. During this time, Clark encountered the work of Russian French painter Nicolas de Staël, whose thickly textured semi-abstract works became a strong influence — in particular, _The Footballer_, which Clark saw at the Salon d’Autumne.
Clark settled in New York in 1957, though he would continue to travel to Paris throughout his life. That same year he co-founded the artists cooperative Brata Gallery in the East Village, along with Al Held, George Sugarman, Sal Romano, John Krushenick, and Ronald Bladen. Clark showed his shaped canvas, _Untitled_, at the space’s 1957 Christmas group show and it is widely regarded as the first of its kind. Entranced by color, Clark became recognized for his expressive and energetic palette, understanding of light, and his unconventional application methods. He won numerous awards, including the Joan Mitchell Award in 1998 and the Legends and Legacy Award from the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013.
Shortly before his death in 2019, Clark became exclusively represented by Hauser & Wirth. His works are held in collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the California African American Museum, the Hammer Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago.