Angelica Brisk’s documentary provides an intriguing overview of the life and career of Abstract Expressionist artist Hyman Bloom (1913-2009). Born in Latvia to an Orthodox Jewish family, he grew up in Boston’s West End and originally hoped to become a rabbi. But when his artistic talents began to manifest in his youth, Bloom found his way to the tutelage of the influential Harvard art professor Denman Ross.
Bloom managed to survive the economic deprivations of the Great Depression through occasional Work Projects Administration stipends and stints as a laborer in his brothers’ factory. By the 1940s, his work achieved national acclaim, and in the 1950s he was considered an equal of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.
Brisk interviewed Bloom two years before his death, and he proved a charming raconteur when recalling his career highs and lows. Bloom, however, avoided talking about his art – but Brisk overcame that obstacle with input from various art historians and a generous line-up of Bloom’s startling output. (Many of his Jewish mystical-inspired works are simply breathtaking in their rich audacity.)
If Bloom is not as famous today as his contemporaries, that can be attributed to his strenuous avoidance of publicity and his longstanding desire to stay in New England instead of moving to New York’s art world. Fortunately, this intelligent production places the artist and his work in the proper cultural and historical perspective.