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John Vincent Bloom is the living link between us and the late, great regionalists. His is the vital hand that took up the brush of Grant Wood to create the regionalist style and spirit in our own time. Like Grant Wood his mentor and colleague, John Bloom (1906) was a native who drew inspiration from his immediate surroundings and personal experiences. During the course of his sixty- year career as an artist, Bloom produced a considerable body of work ranging from large murals to intimate studies, sculptures carved in wood to lithographic prints and easel paintings. His interest in depicting local, American subject matter reflects his life-long commitment to Regionalism, a movement popular during the Great Depression. As an artist who experienced the economic turmoil of the first half of the twentieth century, it comes as no great surprise that work features prominently throughout Bloom’s career.

John Bloom’s art is produced through his experiences from over eighty years of life in his heartland. The subjects and their handling in his art works are imbued with a directness and humor which has composed much of the art known as Regionalist. Bloom’s often humble subjects are filled with human warmth. Any sense of nostalgia is in the viewer as Bloom has steered clear of simple pathos. His narrative content is rendered in a lively and colorful pallet that has a special freshness that belies any patina of age.

Bloom’s major later work is highlighted by three murals: Four Seasons (1987), Oat Shocking (1987), and Cattle Loading (1988). These works are realizations from original works and ideas for the 1930’s and 1940’s. These new paintings reaffirm and complete his earlier ideas. The metal cleated wheels on the tractor in Four Seasons, identifies it as being from the 1940’s, not the 1980’s. In Oat Shocking the work is done by hand, not by machine. The work is not entangled in the many changes the world has experienced during the intervening forty plus years. The artist portrays his own earlier images by bringing them into finished and often monumental form.

Several of Bloom’s works address the formal problem of multiple figure groupings. Like Paul Cezanne’s several important studies of Bathers, Bloom challenges himself by composing paintings in this grand and difficult tradition. Burial (1931) and Operation (1935) are two of many early works which successfully arrive at a compositional solution. Both works were honored with prizes at the Iowa State Fair’s Art Salon. Burial received third prize in 1932 and Operation received first prize in 1935. Additionally, Field Goal (1950) offers a dynamic pile-up of football players that is centered between a jumping defense player on the left and the kicker on the right. These colorful forms intertwine in front of a half-filled bleacher containing rows of faceless spectators. The frozen action is presented within this dynamic organization of space.

In all of Bloom’s art works a strong naturalism is evidenced. The majority of his works express his world view through a figurative tradition which includes humans and carefully observed animals. The sculpture Cat Stretching (1945), or the kneeling cow from the Tipton Post Office Mural, present animals within a moment of action that are distinguished by simplified accuracy. His works of art honor the natural world.

The well-observed humor in the painting After Church (1934) or the strength represented in the sculpture Wrestlers (1936) reveals Bloom’s skills of observation and memory. His quick sketches capture the salient contours of a scene and his visual recall allows him to reconstruct the rest in the studio. An example of this is the brown marks in the sketch of Monkey Island (1987). In the painting they become complete monkeys in action at this favorite family attraction in Davenport’s zoo. Bloom has carefully set up interesting parallels between man and animals. There is the pairing on the left of the child climbing the tree with a monkey doing the same. At the right, a standing pregnant woman and on the island a pregnant monkey walks on all fours across the stone wall. John Bloom has directly experienced life in the Midwest. Through his artworks we can track the characters, subjects and actions of his “Slice of the Midwest”. No dark social comment compels his work; rather the humor and simple truths found in nature and the world of man have gained his thoughtful attention.

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