Robert Mangold (b. 1937)

One of America’s foremost Minimalists, Robert Mangold is known for exploring the potentials of painting. Throughout his career, he has created myriad series that question perceptions of shape, line, and color. His work straddles the contemporary and the classical, with his soft color and curving, abstract forms embodying Minimalism, while at the same time evoking the art of the Renaissance and Ancient Greece.


Born in North Tonawanda, New York in 1937, Mangold began his studies at the Cleveland Institute of Art and subsequently attended Yale University, graduating in 1962. Soon after, Mangold moved to New York, where he worked in the Museum of Modern Art, first as a guard and then in the library. While at the museum, he worked alongside Robert Ryman, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, and the critic and writer, Lucy Lippard. He immersed himself in this group of Minimalist artists, all of whom lived around the Bowery in Lower Manhattan.

Mangold’s work creates geometric objects in a variety of monochromatic tones, articulated with graphite stokes on canvas made up of one or various panels. The elegant lines interweave and interlock across the surface of the canvas, often competing with the shape of the support. His distinctive style evolved through the 1960s and 70s, as he began to use Masonite panels to produce different shapes and structures, as seen in the Walls, Areas, and W, V or X series.


Between 1980 and 1986, the artist produced three groups of dynamic and architectonic paintings entitled XS, +S, and the Frame Paintings. These works are considered iconic in the artist’s production, as they express a more mature artistic thinking.


Through the 1990s, the so-called Attic series and Plane/Figure series demonstrated a change in Mangold’s palette of colors, with earthier tones which reference the paints of Greek ceramics, while the ellipses and curves evoke the classic shapes of Hellenic ceramics. In the middle of this decade, Mangold executed a series of monochrome panels, deployed in two-panel trapezoidal works, whose colors, sometimes matching, sometimes contrasting, ran to deep oranges, olive greens, browns, and grays. Most recently, Mangold has continued to explore and interrogate the elements of pictorial composition. With the Ring Paintings Mangold utilizes the void, creating a ring-shaped canvas with a hole in the center.


Mangold has exhibited his work in four different Whitney Biennials at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. His work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles; Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland, and the Museo Nacional Centro del Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.


Robert Mangold lives in Washingtonville, New York with his wife Sylvia Plimack Mangold, who is also an artist.