A failed painting is better than one that's just plain bad. The failed painting is one that could have been great.
— Larry Poons

Larry Poons is an American painter whose works continue to evolve in style and technique.


Larry Poons was born in Tokyo in 1937. His parents were American, his father in the export business. In 1938 the family returned to the United States and settled in Great Neck, New York.


Poons studied in an “Art for Seniors” program in high school, but, at that time, he was more interested in music than art, and set his sights on becoming a composer. After high school he attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston from 1955 to 1957. He continued to paint during his time at the Conservatory, and found that composing didn’t come as naturally to him as painting.


In 1959 Poons saw an exhibit of Barnett Newman’s Color Field paintings. He got in touch with Newman and they became friends. Newman even took Poons’ father to dinner to convince him that art was a noble profession and to cut his son some slack. Poons left the Conservatory of Music and enrolled at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. After graduation, Poons moved to New York. He had his first solo show at the Green Gallery in New York in 1963. His Dot paintings, in which he used a grid to superimpose dots on fields of brilliantly colored backgrounds, met with great success.


MoMA included Poons’ paintings in the 1965 show, The Responsive Eye, along with works by Ellsworth Kelly, Josef Albers and other fine artists. He was the youngest artist included in the 1969 New York Painting and Sculpture, 1940–1970 show at the Met.

Poons studied at the Art Students League and taught at the Art Students League in the late sixties.


Beginning in the 1970s, Poons expanded his technique and began to experiment with using rough surfaces like rubber, foam and rope on canvas and spilling and throwing paint onto the surface. There was some negative criticism of his work, and support from artists, like his friend, Frank Stella.


In the 1960s, Poons played guitar with The Druds, an avant-garde noise music band that featured other artists and lyricists like Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns.


He also continued to race motorcycles, something he had done since the age of sixteen. In 1998 and 2003, Poons won the championship for the 500 Premier and in 2003, he and his wife, artist Paula DeLuccia, won the Demoisey Memorial Award for outstanding husband and wife team. Poons and DeLuccia live in New York City and have a studio in upstate New York.


The works of Larry Poons can be found in the permanent collection of The Met, MoMA, the Smithsonian, the Tate London, the Whitney and many other major venues around the world.




Robert C. Morgan. The Subtle Madness of Larry Poons and Jean Dubuffet. Hyperallergic. February 10, 2017.

Roberta Smith. Larry Poons: ‘New Paintings’. The New York Times. January 23, 2014.

David Rhodes. Larry Poons with David Rhodes. The Brooklyn Rail. Art/In Conversation. October 2017.


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