The Gnosticism of Giorgio Morandi

May 29, 2019 § Leave a comment


“For students of painting (Morandi) continues to question, allowing us through painted palimpsests to see him in the act of deciding. In spite of a natural reclusive inclination, he showed us what it is to believe in painting as a way of life, to love its tattletale evidence of our humanness….In one completed painting exists a layering of faltering probes: passage over passage of stutterings, mutings, bumblings, corrections, slaps and sludges which finally slouch towards a homemade hand-hewn idealization. This is a stirring and captivating demonstration of how to labor a painting through to a life of its own. It is as if the actual birth process of a painting has been anthologized.”      –Wayne Thiebaud, on Morandi

Read Wayne Thiebaud’s entire article on Giorgio Morandi, published in the New York Times, November 15, 1981, on occasion of the retrospective of Morandi’s work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.


Richard Cook’s Dreams and Reflections

May 25, 2019 § 2 Comments

In one sense (paintings) are dreams and they’re reflections and they’re memories, and they become more so; but they are crucially tethered to a particular place, all of them, to the point I could give grid references for all of these paintings.

I think the thing about painting is that it’s always out of reach slightly… one reaches for something… like the horizon, and yet one can never have it, one can never even touch it; one sort of yearns towards it and that’s all one can ever do.”

Wayne Thiebaud’s Painted World

September 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

I was privileged as a young student to participate in a workshop at Mountain Lake in Virginia in the early 1980s, organized by my teacher, Ray Kass, from Virginia Tech. I imagined that Thiebaud would be a kind of Oscar Wilde-like character, as colorful and flamboyant as his delicious paintings of pies and cakes that were very much defining the contemporary art world at that time, the world that I, as a young painter, was preparing to enter. What I found instead was a deeply humble man who wasn’t much interested in talking about himself, his work, or his reputation. We spent an evening looking at old, brown masters of the past – Chardin, Rembrandt, Tintoretto and others – while Thiebaud held forth on his deeply held belief in the need for painters to work at acquiring the disciplines of looking and seeing the world around them. Here’s an instructive excerpt of a talk by Wayne Thiebaud given at the New York Studio School in 1999. In it he articulates in his wonderfully clear, no-nonsense way, some of the same values that he shared with us those many years ago.

Color Massing II

November 20, 2014 § 5 Comments

Describing a breakthrough he had while struggling with a landscape painting, 19th century American painter, Albert Pinkham Ryder wrote, “…the old scene presented itself…and before my eyes , framed in an opening between two trees. It stood out like a painted canvas…three solid masses of form and color: sky, foliage, and earth. The whole was bathed in an atmosphere of golden luminosity. I threw my brushes aside; they were too small for the work at hand. I squeezed out big chunks of pure, moist color, and taking my palette knife, I laid on blue, green, white, and brown in great sweeping strokes. As I worked, I saw that it was good and clean and strong. I saw nature springing into life upon my dead canvas! Exultantly I painted until the sun sank below the horizon. Then I raced around the fields like a colt let loose and literally bellowed for joy!” *

A gallery of color massings from the centuries:

*From Painters on Painting, edited by Eric Protter

Knocking at an Empty House

January 4, 2014 § 2 Comments


From the essay ‘The Porcupine and the Car’  in Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House: Writings 1973-1994 by Bill Viola (1995) (Thanks to Julie at Unreal Nature.)

Artists have known for a long time that the most interesting connections in things involve areas of low, or ambiguous, information, so-called “gaps” in recognition. This is the time of involvement, of participation by the viewer, in a work of art. The process of learning itself demands that initially one must be confronted with something one does not understand. René Magritte wrote: “People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image. No doubt they sense this mystery, but they wish to get rid of it. They are afraid. By asking ‘What does this mean?’ they express a wish that everything be understandable. But if one does not reject the mystery, one has quite a different response. One asks other things.”

(Image: Still from video,  “Quintet of the Astonished,” 2000, by Bill Viola.)

Stanley Lewis

September 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Stanley Lewis is one of the seven artists included in the upcoming exhibition, See It Loud, at the National Academy Museum in New York City.

A Contrarian Streak

September 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

See It Loud an upcoming show at the National Academy Museum in New York City investigates the work of seven influential painters who were beginning their careers at a time when Abstract Expressionism dominated the art world and the teaching of art. Leland Bell, Paul Georges, Peter Heinemann, Albert Kresch, Stanley Lewis, Paul Resika, and Neil Welliver all followed individual paths through abstraction toward the re-investigation of representation, perception, and narrative in painting.

The show opens September 26 and runs until January 26, 2014. For more information about the show and the individual artists:

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