Theodore Gordon


executed portraits in pen, magic marker, and colored pencils on paper that are made up of dense, patterned networks of lines, which the artist contends are exercises in“self-observation and self-transformation.” His drawings “assemble themselves on paper” without preplanning. His faces are staring, complex, and sometimes dour.Gordon’s patterned grids of stripes, cross-hatching, and circular swirls are self-contained, and he leaves narrow, unembellished space around the major figure or head,setting off the main subject from its background.Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1924, Gordon lived with his grandparents. Following the death of his father when he was fourteen, Gordon moved with hisgrandparents to New York City. He graduated from Eastern District High School in Brooklyn, was drafted into the United States Army in 1944, and following hisdischarge took some college courses. Restless in the classroom, he took a series of jobs, as a messenger, clerk, and bricklayer, before moving to California, in 1953,where he met his wife; they settled in San Francisco. Gordon obtained a B.A. degree with a concentration in social welfare from San Francisco State College.In 1939, after his father died, Gordon attempted caricature sketches to honor his father’s memory. His father had also produced some caricatures and cartoons, andGordon says that he, like his father, “doodled” in “response to some of his anxiety feelings.” Gordon began to draw again in the early 1950s, this time virtuallyautomatically. He worked on any paper that was at hand, such as envelopes, receipts, and the paper used as dividers to separate X-ray film in the hospitals in which heworked. He used all of his spare time from his jobs working in veterans’ hospitals to draw human faces and heads, restless plants, birds, cats, and abstractcompositions. After retiring, in 1985, he continued to draw daily and continues to do so.In 1990 Gordon had a solo exhibition at the Collection de l’art brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 1998 he received the Award of Distinction from the Folk ArtSociety of America in San Diego, California.
See also
Outsider Art
Cardinal, Roger. “A Very Ordinary Man: The Obsessive Drawings of Ted Gordon.”
vol. 7, no. 1 (fall 2002): 8–11, 18, 29.Larsen-Martin, Susan.
Pioneers in Paradise: Folk and Outsider Artists of the West Coast.
Long Beach, Calif., 1984.MacGregor, John.
Theodore Gordon.
Lausanne, Switzerland, 1990.