Peregrine flight

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Robert Williams' New Show

I got this brochure today for the new Robert Williams show at Cal State Northridge. The show is entitled, Conceptual Realism in the Service of the Hypothetical.

The show starts February 20 and runs through April 3rd. It is on its west coast swing after debuting at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York last October.

The paintings and sculptural pieces that illustrate the brochure are beyond description. Some of this amazing artist's greatest work ever. He has always been far in front of the curve and a step quicker than the pretentious fine art geeks.

I especially like a piece that is titled "Wooden spirits persist where termites fear to tread." It is a nice tribute to Native Americans, a bit sentimental almost for this hardened artist.

I met Williams many times in my younger days and he has an intimidating genius. His technical skill is flawless. His mind is light years ahead. Definitely looking forward to this show.

Here is the artist statement for the exhibition:

Applying Realistic Art to Conceptualism – A Statement of Intent

For many years modern artists have intended to create paintings that fit into the understood explanation of conceptual art, and not all of it has simply been pop art. However, the majority of modern paintings have tried to slip under the safe recognized title of “pop.” Although pop has been the most obvious refuge, there are some real problems with this idiom. Pop art needs, and totally depends on appropriation – copying something popular. The need to reference itself back to the population’s common favoritisms encumbers art’s ability to experience the entire spectrum of the hypothetical. In other words, it’s very limited. Copying, or just recreating an object in a larger size suggests an atrophied imagination.

With the exception of pop art, there is a problem with the acceptance of realistic fine art painting into the formal art world of conceptualism. Basically it’s the contemporary art world’s hatred of craftsmanship. Facie dexterity has been frowned on and discouraged for almost sixty years. At best, it has been classified as the quaint expression of a hobbyist, more suited in the quest for a blue ribbon at a county fair. Unfortunately, because of many artists who have timidly restrained their imaginations this dim view has proven justified.

Acceptable or not, craftsmanship and the ability to draw and paint without the aid of computer or photography is a positive human compulsion, and is just as valid a virtuosity as singing with a beautiful voice, or a piano concerto played with nimble fingers. All representational painting should not be categorized with sentimental and innocuous works that placate the requirements of modest morality, something on the order of eyewash.

A well executed oil painting with intelligent purpose should not find itself the exclusive trappings of the interior decorator of the sanctimonious moralist espousing public and family values.

The key word is supposition, It must be suggested that art inspired by over-imagination, rendered in precise clarity, and compelled to masquerade as conceptual art can only flourish if it represents itself honestly in the service of the purely hypothetical.

As an art dealer who has been around for a while, I must say that I do not find much room to disagree. Too many "fine artists" never learned how to handle a brush. Our great craftsmen, painters like Wyeth, Pyle, Rockwell, Griffin and Williams, are derided by the intelligencia for not being sufficiently vague and au courant or for merely being illustrators. Williams' art smacks you right in the head. Also he has the coolest website.