Morris Barazani Biography

Morris Barazani




Born in Highland Park, Michigan on June 24, 1924, Morris Barazani's artistic sensibility began to take shape with the enthusiastic help of his high school art teacher, who was not much older than him. Both of them left school to serve in the armed forces from 1943-46, during which time Barazani worked on a Navy carrier and had a stint with an amphibious Marines Argus unit, setting up radar. After completing his tour of duty, Barazani's teacher went to Stanford for his PhD, and Barazani followed.

The prospect of a teaching job at the Institute of Design (ID) brought them both to Chicago, where Barazani promptly enrolled. "I was preoccupied with the Constructivists and Mondrian," he recalls. Barazani's studies at ID occupied 1947-48, a period in which a major philosophical battle was brewing at the school. "It was the Moholys versus the Chermayeffs," says Barazani, referring to the different philosophies of figurehead Laszlo Moholy Nagy and his successor Serge Chermayeff. "I was in the Moholy camp and soon I was basically asked to leave."

Barazani was married in 1948, and together he and his new wife Gail - whom he had met in a class with sculptor Hugo Weber - moved to Detroit to study at at Cranbrook Academy. While in Detroit, Barazani ran Circle Gallery, an independent artistic outlet that showed many important artists of the era; at Circle, in 1949, Barazani had his first one-man show, and the same year he exhibited in the seminal Momentum Exhibition in Chicago. The Barazanis lived behind the gallery, and in 1951 they had their first child, David. Throughout the early '50s, Morris' work was included in shows at the Detroit Institute of Art and the Hanamura Gallery, Detroit.

Morris and Gail moved back to Chicago, drawn by a job with Goldblatt's; alongside the commercial work, Morris was constantly pushing his own artistic boundaries. "Automatic writing and a free approach to paint was becoming dominant over design," he says, and his work from the period shows a move away from the Bauhaus influence into abstract expressionism, both in his paintings and his collages. In the '50s and '60s. To be an ab-ex painter in Chicago was to swim against the figural current, and it required a high degree of commitment and confidence.