Thursday, December 03, 2015


Wood, 2015, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches

Addison Parks / Recent Paintings  2014-2015

Painting is very often like going through door number three; you just don't know what you'll find. The reason I keep painting, keep going back, keep going through door number three, is that more often than not, something is waiting. I think our ego self declares something along the lines that "I made something happen," but deep down we know we just got lucky, again. We're just fishing, and if we are lucky, we get something on the line.

Trunk, 2015, oil on linen, 24 x 18 inches

I won't lie, these paintings aren't big fish. Then again, I am not big fish fishing. Not these days. After over 50 years of painting large, I am really just interested in anything the sea, or river, or lake, or ocean, will give me. I have taken stabs at making a decent small painting from time to time, but my natural inclination and disposition since I was a boy was to paint larger than life, to feel my brush strokes travel and explore the arc and extent of my reach. Small paintings are compressed. More in the wrist. It is all good.

Love's Spine, 2015, gouache on linen, 16 x 12 inches

Painting is just dreaming with your eyes wide open. Did Diego Rivera say that? Well, I know what he means. The very act of painting has always been a close companion to daydreaming for me. Plain old-fashioned musing. And the paintings in this show are maybe more of that than I have done in some time. I really can't explain them or account for them. I don't even know what to think of them, so I certainly cannot hold it against anyone for feeling the same way.

Hillside, 2015, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches

There is a little Paul Klee at play in Hillside. He can be a mentor for small paintings. Play is vital. The tree-figure form is rather animated. Can be person, place or thing. Animal or vegetable. Its red paint becomes the light in the canvas. I starting using the tree-figure mark in a mural three or four years ago to organize some otherwise random brushstrokes (although its origin is without question totally and absolutely rooted in my wooden sculptures of the last fifteen plus years). These marks from the mural seemed to be literally marking time at first. Four strokes and a cancellation to make the numeral five. Small family of five. Father of four. But then tree. Especially pines. Pines that dot the 360 degrees of woods that surround my studio and home. They jumped from my sculptures and out of my mural and into my paintings last Winter, and lasted through early Spring. Where they go from here I have no idea. How strong they are remains to be seen.

Flap, 2015, gouache and oil on linen, 18 x 24 inches

I am so grateful to Nina Nielsen and John Baker for just giving me this show, but I owe an added debt to Nina for daring me not to paint in a series. She didn't say it so much, not directly anyway, as show me by her fine example.

A number of these paintings are unmoored as a result, just floating around out there, untethered from a group, a series, an alliance, a device, a hook, a common theme. It makes them random. Isolated. Alone. Irreplaceable. Undisplacible. Relatively unique in that they are single.

Becco's Ride, 2015, gouache on linen, 16 x 12 inches

I can like that. It is like swimming way out in the ocean by yourself at night. Scary, but exhilarating and somehow liberating.  These small gouaches and oils are rooted in my experience, and many of them spring from the rather commonplace and strangely familiar. But they make an appearance on the canvas, and I try to do right by them, honor them, give them a good life.

Light Sail, 2015, gouache on linen, 16 x 12 inches

I use color and shape and mark and line and texture and contrast and signs and arrows and metaphor, etc., to give wings and heart and fire and brains to my paintings, to bring them to life, to set their sails to the wind, and cast them out to sea. A painting like Light Sail takes me back. Back to 1960, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, to the morning boat from Venice to Pireaus, to Mykonos, to white light and white stone, to blue sky and blue water, to windmills, to the lions at Delos. I can feel the stiff, salty breeze.

When I see my old paintings, they tell me so much, almost too much, of what I was thinking at that time, where I was, how I was, up or down, in or out, happy, challenged, heartbroken, or on top of the world. They tell me what inspired me, what called me, what drove me; in short, what I cared about. They also tell me what I was struggling with or opposing or ignoring at my peril. I see them and a little voice says, oh, that was what was going on. I feel exposed by them sometimes, or thankful to them for bringing back a happy memory about something or someone from long ago. They are so personal that way. Vessels. Filled with light and dark, yearning and passion, daring and delight, foolishness and anticipation,  rawness and struggle, wonder and sorrow, and the occasional glimpse of the breathtaking, the sublime, if fortune smiles on me. All served up in triumph and celebration.

Cathy's Turn, 2015,  gouache and oil on linen, 16 x 12 inches

Quite often I have to resist the urge of trying to use a painting I like as a stepping stone to another painting, as much as it might tempt me, as much as it might yield. You know, keep painting the same painting until I get it right; mine it until there is no ore left. Instead, sometimes I try just letting one painting tell its story, give what it may, get it right the first time. And then start again. The complete tabula rasa. Back to the bottom of the hill, back to the beginning. A new day! Door number three!

Plot Line, 2015, gouache on linen, 16 x 12 inches

It is worth noting that there are paintings which look outward and paintings which look inward, and some that manage neither and some that achieve both. At times I was all about that painting that looks outwardly. Painting that may aim inward but speaks outwardly. On and off I have gone the other route, speaking inwardly about things both outward and inward. Most of the time this has happened in small paintings, just not all small paintings. Still, it is my hope that my small paintings will set a trap, land a fish, maybe even create a nice fishbowl worthy of a momentary gaze.

Charles Seliger was a painter who spoke inwardly, but about things both large and small. In his last judgment, Michelangelo spoke inwardly and outwardly. A rare feat. Velasquez, yes. Rembrandt, yes.  Pollock could do it. So could de Kooning. So could Klimt. Joan Mitchell. Porfirio DiDonna. Joan Snyder. Milton Resnick certainly made it his end all, be all.

Not of This World(Pine), 2015, oil on canvas, 14 x 11 inches

Outwardly is more common because it is the nature of painting to be an outward expression.

Fall, 2015, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches

Inwardly is different. Think Advent calendar. Think nesting. Eddies. Secrets. Buried treasure. Wormholes. Cupped hands. The beachcomber's prize.

Seventh Samurai, 2015, oil on linen, 24 x 18 inches

Charles Seliger delighted in buried treasures in his paintings. We are meant to mine them. The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery once provided the viewers with magnifying glasses to better guide our way. Resnick's crusty masterpieces of the late 70s and early 80s were rock faces to be scaled by comparison. Bring a pickaxe! Helen Frankenthaler was completely expansive but on the inside. Richard Tuttle is nothing if not inward. It is very difficult to get to his work outwardly, although he spoke about the process as though it were a circle, you could get to one or the other depending on which way you went, maybe ultimately getting to the same place in the end. That would seem almost strangely inevitable and even unavoidable. From ashes to ashes, dust to dust. 

Heaven's Gate, 2015, oil on canvas, 14 x 11 inches

Leon Polk Smith, like Frankenthaler, appears totally outward and yet speaks to what is profoundly and poetically and ineffably inward. 

My Heart is by the Window, 2014, oil on linen, 12 x 9 inches

Forrest Bess's work is completely inward and yet makes a powerful outward impression. It would seem to suggest that yes, there is more than one way to get there. The artist that harnesses both, like a Rothko, and still delivers, sets us down a super highway. Still, in my experience, all roads do indeed lead to Rome(home), and I am so grateful for a lifetime of painting that has helped show me the way, so grateful for all the love and art(fish, large and small) that shined its light on me.


Addison Parks @ Nielsen Gallery @ Bow Street Annex

Recent Paintings of Addison Parks, 2014-2015 this November 2015 thru January 2016     NIELSEN GALLERY

To see the exhibition please visit:

I would like to thank John Baker and Nina Nielsen for putting up this exhibition. For their wild generosity and thoughtfulness. John Baker for his unfailingly concise insight. I would also like to thank my family for being the beating heart of every one of these paintings. Thank you all.

To see more work please visit

Monday, October 12, 2015

Artist Notes: Kenn Speiser

I just finished installing a sculpture commission for the I-195 Redevelopment District in Providence, Rhode Island.

The two steel pieces titled “Mother & Child” are located in downtown Providence marked on the enclosed map with a magenta dot.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

LEON POLK SMITH AT WASHBURN: A Love Affair with Life / A Portrait of the 1960s

Leon Polk Smith, CORRESPONDENCE VIOLET BLACK, 1966, oil on canvas, 39 x 51 1/2 in.

Leon Polk Smith(1906-1996) had this uncanny gift of tapping into both time and timelessness. If this was calculated, he never said. But if you see the current show(Leon Polk Smith: Paintings and Collages from the 1960s) at the Washburn Gallery in New York, it hits you right between the eyes.

Smith's hard edge, cutting edge, razor sharp ability to capture both the moment and that which is eternal in art sets him apart. It speaks to the power at the core of both him and his work. It was a quality that never ceased to amaze those who knew him. It was a quality that stunned everyone who experienced his work.

Leon Polk Smith, CORRESPONDENCE BLACK YELLOW, 1963, oil on canvas, 77 x 52 in.

The result is painting that is at once startlingly fresh and exuberant, and thoroughly tempered and tough as oak. This was Leon Polk Smith. This was an artist who captured poetry as ephemeral and heartbreaking as a rose petal and transformed that into a blazing skyscraper. Take shock and awe and add tenderness and yearning and the morning sun.

Leon Polk Smith's story says it all. Born and raised among the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes on the wide open Oklahoma plains before it was a state, and then reborn at a mature age by the exploding Modernity of New York City in the first half of the 20th Century.

Leon Polk Smith, VIOLET SCARLET, 1965, oil on canvas, 87 x 41 in.

That Smith thoroughly anticipated and pioneered minimalism and influenced generations of artists doesn't begin to tell the story. Not one of the countless and albeit formidable artists to stand on his shoulders from Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly and Ad Reinhardt to Richard Serra, Peter Halley and Bill Thompson, ever nailed the vicissitudes and zeitgeist of their time quite like Smith. Not surprisingly perhaps the only other artist who did was the only influence Smith ever conceded: Mondrian.

Looking at the works in this show is like seeing color coded flashcards of the Sixties. Everyone elicits a time, a place, a sound, a taste. Rorschach on steroids. Colors and shapes picking up and spitting out the character, flavor, fashion, music and spirit of the times!

Leon Polk Smith, WHITE YELLOW DEEP, 1964, oil on canvas, 52 x 42 in.

Smith was a big fan of graffiti art in the late 70s and early 80s. It should come as little surprise. There is something of the street poet in his work. Maybe more than something. These paintings are the sights and sounds of the 60s in a visual haiku. They flower. They fly off the canvas. The show might well have been titled what it is: LEON POLK SMITH: A Love Affair with Life / A Portrait of the 1960s.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

Washburn Gallery Installation; Leon Polk Smith: Paintings and Collages from the 1960s

Paintings and Collages from the 1960s

September 10 - October 31, 2015

WASHBURN GALLERY  20 West 57th Street, New York, New York 10019 T (212) 397-6780 F (212) 397-4853

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Thursday, September 10, 2015


If I think about what art means to me, what comes to mind is that it is a vision. That is what has always struck me when I have encountered what I now think of as art; something that appears to be a vision. The size and medium are of little consequence; it is the experience of this vision that moves me.

I would also have to say that light plays a role in this experience, but it is predominantly an inner light, something which radiates, shines through the work.

When I was very young and came across a vision, I just knew that I had had an experience, and didn't think of it as art. One of my first experiences of this sort was The Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre at the age of seven.

This is not an uncommon response to one of the most commanding and inspiring sculptures in the world. Nonetheless I too was floored by it.

Later I came to recognize when something like this happened, and I felt excited by it, like a rush of adrenaline, like being shot out of a cannon, it came to mean something to me, and that something took the name "Art." Even as a very young artist this experience of a vision was what I was looking for, instead of a signature, a style, a brand, or a fashionable, cutting edge, trendsetting invention I could call my own. Something with light, with radiance, with power.

This vision I am talking about is an individual and unique experience, not some broad big picture kind of vision, like the way people talk about someone with a "vision." No, I am talking about an isolated experience that is almost always unexpected, that we happen upon or happens to us.

We scour galleries and museums in hopes of finding or having this experience the way we might go to a casino to hit the jackpot or go to a bar or club hoping to fall in love. For lack of a better description, a better word, this vision experience is what I think of as an aesthetic experience.

This sense of vision has always guided me. It is absolutely my very personal journey; it is absolutely subjective. It is not intellectual. It is not the result of contemplation or analysis or systematic observation or judgment. It is something transcendent. It is art.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

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Sunday, September 06, 2015

DRAWING: Lesson One

I retired from teaching 20 years ago to raise a family and paint. When I thought about going back to teaching now that my children are grown and off to college, these were my first thoughts:

Paul Klee

It starts with a blank sheet of paper. A beautiful blank sheet of paper. Not all drawing is done on paper, and the surface is not always blank, but you get the idea. That blank sheet of paper is perfect. Pure. Whatever happens there has a long way to go to improve on that. Especially over time. Over time we tire of so much. A blank sheet of paper on the other hand is always welcome.

So what can we bring to that space that we draw on? Our imagination? Our perception? Our talent? Our will? Our industry? Our inspiration? Our feelings? All or none of that. What else?

Van Gogh

Our visions? Our joys? Our values? Our beliefs? Our fears?

Cy Twombly

Drawing has the power to convey all that, for each of us and all of us.

Drawing can be a record, a document, a memory, a brainstorm, an experiment, a doodle, an homage, an inquiry, a fantasy, a dream, a dare!

Gerhard Richter

We can approach the drawing in terms of line, or space, literally, or suggestively. We can be faithful, or we can be fickle. We can draw what we feel like, or we can draw what needs to be drawn. We can discover the drawing through the act of doing, or map our way. We can dive in, or ease our way slowly.

Claude Monet

Light may very well be our guide, sifting through a thousand shades of gray. Gesture may suit us better, allowing suggestion to unleash with imagination and mystery what plodding and scheming never dreamed of. We can mine the unconscious. We can speak in code, shrouding our depths in abstraction, inviting pure form to utter what we have no words for. Or we can rely on our craft and skill to dutifully deliver an honest and earnest labor of love.

Piet Mondrian

Drawing can do all this and more. It can be visual thinking. It can celebrate the world around us. It can comment on social justice. It can poke fun when things get too serious. It can arouse our passions. It can overwhelm us with beauty. It can surprise us with perspectives we never dreamed of and worlds we never thought possible. It can move us to action, or emotion. It can inspire us to aspire, or even to change. It can light our fire, or light our way. It can show us absolutely anything.

So let's get started!

Addison Parks, 2007

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

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Saturday, July 25, 2015


The Fogg Museum at Harvard will be closing its Special Exhibition of its Rothko Murals tomorrow. Seems a shame. It struck me as the highlight of its new incarnation, and something rather special indeed.

There is no getting around what Mark Rothko was able to conjure up once he established his moody hues, and soft looming rectilinear forms. As almost goofy as these murals are, variations of the letter 'H' cloaked in crimsons (the initial and school color of the institution for which they were commissioned), after over fifty years, their time has come, and old age has made them venerable beyond belief. Rothko seems to have parked himself in Harvard Yard and literally channelled the brick buildings, their shapes and motifs, into painted icons, knights, guardians, scholars, keepers of the flame. Something sacred. Strangely sombre. With a hush about them. Wholey eligiac.

It is not hard to imagine that in their youth these murals might have been good for a hardy collegiate har har, and not much appreciation, but now, with the benefit of a beautiful albeit temporary home, they are positively radiant.

mark rothko 1963

They also bring to mind the Orozco Murals at Dartmouth; admirers travelling from far and wide to make a fuss of what the college hardly knew it had. Harvard has risked doing the same. Raised like Lazarus, this special exhibition deserves a catalogue. A record. Harvard has a shrine on its hands, and like I said, it closes tomorrow. Glad I saw it. A couple of times. Thank you Fogg. Thank you Harvard. Thank you Rothko.

Addison Parks
Cambridge, July 25, 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Milton Resnick (1917-2004)

If ever there was a painter whose work is shrouded in mystery, it would be Milton Resnick. He is both difficult and challenging; and the two are not the same.

Milton Resnick

This was his nature, his experience, and his legacy. Ironically,  he is considered by many to be the painter's painter, and his followers are legion.

The truth is, however, that "painter's painter" doesn't even begin to tell the story, which is why the use of the word irony. The power Resnick holds over painting and painters is not so easy, not so genteel. No, God, or the Father, would be more fitting, as so many painters who have come to his table and made a meal of his painting, have become one of his sons and daughters. It just happens. Almost like it or not. It is a truth that is complicated, and difficult, in that God and Father way, and "painter's painter" falls so short that the expression seems almost pitiful. In the same way that reproductions of the work fall short, the way a photograph of the Grand Canyon falls ridiculously short. Resnick engenders that kind of awe. That kind of magnitude. Almost terrifying.

Cheim&Read Installation, The Elephant in the Room, 2011

Cheim&Read Installation, The Elephant in the Room, 2011

Cheim&Read Installation, The Elephant in the Room, 2011

Cheim&Read Installation, STRAWSThe Elephant in the Room, 2011

No matter how we may comfort ourselves into thinking that we are prepared, experienced, adept, sophisticated, educated, and aesthetically tough-minded enough, when confronted with Milton Resnick's work, we are in the dark. We are back at the beginning. Every time. It is the beauty of his work. It is always changing. It is always different. It always gives us something new. Every time. In this regard almost more than any other Resnick stands alone. It is the double-edged sword. Because it is always surprising us, and never fixed, it keeps us at a disadvantage. It does not allow us to become comfortable or familiar. Ultimately, it eludes us, and remains unknown, and unknowable.

UNTITLED 1963, oil on paper laid on canvas, 42 1/2 by 42 5/8 in.

At times, especially from the 70's on (after he abandoned what he dismissed as his pretty paintings-- the "Monet" work of the late 50s and very early 60s), the work becomes absolutely opaque. In fact, if one is to believe his mission, not only did he no longer let the viewer in, but he came out to meet the viewer, almost as if in battle, as in a preemptive strike.

Milton Resnick, untitled, oil on canvas

By brilliantly asserting the action of his paintings out in front of the picture plane (the final frontier after painting had been so thoroughly explored in terms of depth and then flatness), Resnick pioneered and then painted himself out of the picture. It was an unhappy result, and not one that he could likely have forseen or thought through. Nonetheless it suited him. This was his difficult side. Hard to get. He went where few could follow.

Saturn, 1976, 97 x 117 inches, National Gallery of Canada

All the intelligence and touch and passion and poetry and longing inside of him that found its way into his paint could not overcome what could easily be percieved as his ill advised assault on the viewer. By advancing outwardly he risked pushing the viewer away, greeting them but at the same time pressing and almost suffocating them with his seemingly impenetrable fabric of paint.

STRAWS, 1981, oil on canvas, 80 x 60 inches

Indeed, fabric was what Resnick gave us. The fabric of a life he suffered through in so many ways, as a Russian immigrant boy growing up in Brooklyn, as a young artist during the depression,* serving in WWII,  three years starving in Paris, coming into his own as a first generation Abstract Expressionist through the 50s in New York, and then watching everything go Pop in the 60s. He painted the fabric of life he saw in the universe. Someplace more like the firmament. He painted an all at once ragged but sublime fabric that was his sprawling and unfathomable vision of life.

Cheim&Read Installation 2008

Cheim&Read Installation 2008

Resnick in his Broadway Studio

For the viewer to move through his densely textured web, his woven and crusty wall of paint, to pass through his thick fabric, to get past the tower of rage and obsession, to dissolve into his night time sky, or dive into his quicksand, to discover the warm glow of intimacy up close, the flecks of jewel-like paint shining inside, embedded in his ferocious sea, the fire below; to find his heart, and even his joy and humor, required more than loving him or loving his painting, required more than a brave and fierce commitment to his pure, demanding, and seemingly limitless abstraction, it took the broken and bleeding feet of a believer. It took undying faith!** Or...maybe...just maybe, it took what all art takes. Unfettered curiosity. Untutored wonder. An open mind. A big yes. ***

Detail #1 of Resnick paint up close

Detail #2 of Resnick paint up close

Either might explain the fervency of his followers. Either might explain their devotion.

Resnick's Lower East Side studio

Resnick painted himself. He painted us. All of us. The vast thing from the bottom of our souls to infinity. Nothing less would do. When we go there, we go alone, or just maybe, we go with God (His studio on the Lower East Side was a former synagogue). With so many painters we have some kind of footing. With Resnick we have none. Hardly a color we can hold onto. We grasp. We cling. We brace ourselves against the elements. We reach for straws. We let go. We get knocked down. We fall. We get back up, and we do it all over again!

East Is The Place1959, Oil on canvas 117 1/2 × 190 5/8 × 1 7/8 in. Milwaukee Art Museum 

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, July, 2015

Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof
Milton Resnick,untitled,acrylic on paper, c.1990

** It is worth noting that before Milton Resnick ended his life in 2004, his late paintings tell the story of someone who retreated rather considerably from the severity he demanded of himself and of painting most of his hard-fought career. They reflect a gentler and more forgiving view of art and life; perhaps more than just a stepping back from the abyss, perhaps an entirely different feeling about things altogether. There is another story there that it would seem needs telling.

Milton Resnick, Landscape in Mohegan, 1939, oil on canvas

*Landscape by then 22 year old Milton Resnick working for the Easel and Mural Division of the WPA.

Milton Resnick, PENNANT, 1959, oil on canvas, 60 x 48

*** I grew up with this painting, Pennant, from the age of six, and it has been with me everyday since, and now hangs over my mantel. Son of Resnick.