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

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone