An integral member of the American Abstract movement, Ferren was one of the few American artists who developed his painting style while living in Paris along with such avant-garde figures as Pierre Matisse who hosted a show of Ferren's work in his New York Gallery in 1936, Pablo Picasso who befriended him, as well as Kandinsky and Mondrian who exhibited with him. Ferren would eventually become the president of The Club in New York City, which represented the intellectual center of Abstract Expressionism. He was included in Leo Castelli's seminal "Ninth Street Show" just a year before Outdoors was painted. In the late 1950s, he collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on the films The Trouble with Harry (1955) and Vertigo (1958), serving as artistic consultant. A bold and instinctive feeling for color and its possibilities set Ferren apart from his contemporaries; in all his art Ferren attempted to discover reality apart from sheer appearance.
A freely executed expressionist work that reflects an introspective nature, Outdoors is an ode to the Zen Buddhist principles of "spontaneity, chance, and harmony." Heavily influenced by Eastern philosophy and conceptions of space, Ferren worked in a serene, refined style to the aim of creating works that spoke to a certain unity of form. Sparsely painted, Outdoors consists of a series of bold, lavish strokes splayed across a pure white canvas, their edges bleeding outward toward one another and betraying a stain-painting technique focused on surface absorption. The white space that surrounds Ferren's organic and calligraphic marks seems to represent the expanse of air from which they breathe. Much of Ferren's work was completed amidst the great outdoors of California; naturally, his forms are loosely based on tree motifs and their motions in the wilderness. The artist was a devoted intellectual who studied Zen Buddhism, I Ching, and Taoism—all Eastern philosophies espousing the spiritual connection between man and nature. Beginning in 1947, Ferren worked and taught at the Art Center School of Los Angeles; there he befriended the artist and instructor Edward Kaminski, who held Outdoors in his private collection prior to its acquisition by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Collection of Edward Kaminski
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Private Collection, Laguna Beach, California