Jeffrey Steele | i |
last name: Steele
first name: Jeffrey
birthday: 1931
birth-place: Cardiff (Wales)

JEFFREY STEELE was born in Cardiff (Great Britain) in 1931. After study at the College of Art of Cardiff and Newport, Jeffrey Steele dedicated himself to visual-optical research in accordance with the most rigorous principles of suprematism and neo-plasticism, deeply interested also in their philosophical and social theories. The work of the 1960s consist in a two-dimensional and two-tonal spatial conception which -without the use of colors besides black and white -leads to the constitution of bivalent images. In a statement concerning his work Steele proposes: “…to abolish as far as possible subjective, contingent and random factors in favor of a principle of necessity; to develop a pictorial context conforming to this principle and to render this principle as intelligible as possible… and to develop a formal situation which induces the viewer to make determined movements in the real space round the objects.” It is clear that these induced movements have the purpose of a great perceptive clarity: thus the artist’s work helps the viewer to make perception, considered passive or automatic or spontaneous, an act of will and awareness. In his analysis of the kinetic qualities inherent in the act of seeing, Steele differs from other practitioners of op art who base their research exclusively on optical effects. In 1959, in Paris, Steele got to know Albers, Vasarely, Bill, Herbin, Lolex, Soto, and Heurtaux, from whom he acquired elements both of a practical nature and with regard to the theoretical formulation of research. On his return to Cardiff he resumed his work with the same rigorous coherence but without abandoning the traditional system of oil painting: in fact he considers the question of new techniques of no importance in visual research. Convinced of substantial intellectuality of vision, he has expressed his views in numerous theoretical writings. His work in the 1960s -which produce “optical disturbance depending on expedients of an illusory character,” in the words of Umbro Apollonio -are becoming objects of growing critical interest. Steele’s success was confirmed by invitations to exhibit at the large international exhibitions, among them “The Responsive Eye” exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1965 and, in the same year, the historical exhibition of the new movements organized for the Museum of Modern Art by William Seitze. Steele has always refused the idea of an artistic practice unaccompanied by continuous theoretical verification, and this has led him in recent years to revise certain concepts of concrete art that, in his opinion, by exasperating the liberating effects of elements of ambiguity, subjectivity, casualty, result in their involuntary celebration. Steele lives in Portsmouth, where he teaches at the Polytechnic. In 1983 his works were shown at the “L’ultima avanguardia” exhibition at the Palazzo Reale in Milan.

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