Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More on Ober-Rae Starr Livingstone - beyond the nuts and bolts

How do we really account for and reconcile the investment one is willing to make in their commitment as an artist? To be honest, this conundrum is outside rational understanding. Certainly, we can discuss to ad nauseum what many artists deem the “necessity” to create. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not diminishing or downgrading this notion. Remember, I am a painter. Reality is that "living is expensive." Considering the costs, the staying alive, the anguish and loneliness associated in the creativity process, I’ve never been able to fully embrace this lofty and singular ideal of necessity. Amidst the darkness, uncertainty and cruel realities associated with our craft, I have said myself, shouted at the top of my voice even, “Why am I doing this? This is crazy. I don’t get it!”

Some paintings, for obvious reasons were created for specific purposes; political, historical, social protest, even religious. Hey, I understand the beauty of art, how it influences our lives and world; the value of its visual language. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not questioning the importance of paintings or painters. My attempts for some time have been to understand why and how our psyche endures the rigors and pain associated with the process.

From where I’m sitting, as a way of making a living, it’s not a wise choice. Well, that is unless you are “called” into the profession. I can actually understand this perspective. Without this assurance, that your purpose, your very reason for living was to paint, despite what may come, the arduous and uphill journey seems ludicrous. Lured in only by the illusive romance of the craft, one is destined to experience the toil of Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus.” Oh, there are the gifted, but they paint because they can.

Making art is not for part timers. It shows up in the results. The “Called” bring something extra to the table. There is a brilliance. Like Moses coming down from the mountain after his visit with God, scripture says his face shone with the glory of God. He had to veil his face for the brightness was too great. I understand painting as a calling. And a “calling” validates the notion of necessity. Like a leopard
can’t turn away from its spots, neither can the painter called to throw paint. That said, I understand the impetus behind Ober-Rae Starr Livingstone and his paintings. He is called. There is more, it is not quite that simple.

Often, this notion of calling is applied to those thought of as painters of religious themes. If we label Ober-Rae’s paintings as religious paintings, we lessen the experience while interfacing with his images. There are no crosses, no Christ pinned to the missing crosses, no blood or witnesses to the crucifixion. Ober- Rae appeals to the higher court of our consciousness, he appeals to our essence, the essential element of our human existence. Yet, we are nothing and invalid
without the existence of the creation first. Order is critical. The creation is a provision from the Creator. Ober-Rae’s imagery devoid of form and figure exaggerates the very importance of humankind. Why else highlight a creation without a creature?

Creating “high” art is for those seeking and searching for something greater than “Good Art.” This is not “Good Art.” He cares little for making good art. Ober-Rae’s commitment to the craft is grounded in a desire to share an insightful understanding; the Creator’s faithfulness and devotion to His Human Creation. The effectiveness of Ober-Rae’s calling, like that of a minister, requires he focus and point his efforts toward a specific and singular message. Looking back in the Old Testament on Moses, his singular message to Pharaoh was “let my people go.” Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights message of non-violence was “Let freedom ring.” Malcolm X declared it was “by any means necessary;” Ober-Rae, “The faithfulness of the Creator.”

Hanging in the Gallery right now are works by Tom Brady, a Philadelphia painter. A recent guest said they are wonderful paintings, yet they all look the same. The translated version, the reality of her comment is that Brady’s work is definitively Brady; his heavy impasto texture like that of a fingerprint. When you see a Brady painting, you know it is his. Ober-Rae, like Brady, can be identified by his work. His pointed message is clear.

Ober-Rae Starr Livingston

For Immediate Release
Contact: Karl Slocum

The Knapp Gallery Presents
Ober-Rae Starr Livingstone: Places in Time.

Exhibition Dates: May 7th – May 31st, 2010
First Friday Gallery hours: May 7th from 6:00 – 10:00 pm
Opening Reception; May 6, 2010 6 pm – 9:30 pm

(Philadelphia) – The Knapp Gallery continues its tradition of First Friday openings and welcomes Ober-Rae Starr Livingstone in his current body of paintings Places in time. Livingstone, a resident of Cincinnati, is currently represented by Galleries in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

A self-taught painter, Livingstone incorporates elements of abstraction and impressionism. Beyond contemporary art nomenclature, Livingstone paints instinctively from his heart. An intuitive process rather than a cognitive experience, Ober-Rae endeavors to translate the language spoken by the Creation. Concentrating on Land and Sky-Scapes, Livingstone’s multi-dimensional paintings depict his awe at the “wonder of Creation.”

Reliant upon the yearning of the viewer’s heart, desiring the perfection offered only in the creation, Livingstone stands in the gap as an oracle transcribing the history of eternity. These paintings fulfill a “calling.” Much more than earthbound images of an outstanding landscape, sunset or sunrise, Livingstone paints the heavenward expression of these brilliant experiences that are divinely imprinted on our hearts by the Creator’s hand. These are the images we see when we close our eyes and look inward.

Ober-Rae is also a technician. Layer after layer; wash after wash, Livingstone labors bringing to life the resulting brilliance of his process. These paintings breathe with life. A Co-Creator of sorts, Ober-Rae’s gift of “inventing” light through color ultimately affords us healing. A visual salve, Ober-Rae’s images exist as a ministry. With a visual language they speak a heavenly language to the places in our lives long forgotten; even the dark painful places. Emanating perfect peace these paintings remind us of the Creator’s faithfulness down through the corridor of time.

Livingstone’s paintings are included in private and corporate collections in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa.

See Ober-Rae’s paintings at Knapp Gallery. www.knappgallery.com/artists-rae.php

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tom Brady: Why is it Wonderful? An Art of Experiences

Exhibition Dates: April 2, 2010 - May 2, 2010
First Friday Gallery hours: March 5th from 6:00 – 10:00 pm
Opening Reception; April 10, 2010 6pm – 10 pm

Not much to write about Brady. Less is more. No mystery here. Besides, truth doesn’t require explanation. Truth, you ask? What does Art have to do with truth? For the record, truth participates in everything.

Tom Brady is the Knapp Gallery’s senior staffer. Here at the Knapp Gallery, we divide our calendar year by his show; pre and post Brady. Accordingly, Brady is our premier exhibition of the year. My use of the word premier has as much to do with who Brady is, as it does with what his work represents. However, these two independent truths play out in marked divergent results. In one regard, the quality of Tom Brady’s paintings makes this show easier to produce and promote. Conversely, who Tom Brady is makes for a more difficult setup.

Truth: Tom Brady is the consummate professional. He knows what he wants and how he wants it. He should after all; he’s been honing his craft for nearly 37 years. Within this level of maturation, Tom has developed better than satisfactory communication skills; he will speak his mind. You don’t have to guess about what he is thinking.
Periodically, Tom will send an email to share an idea of promotion or an image, or a thought. I’ve deduced, this is Tom’s way of saying he desires conversation. Rarely are these conversations about his paintings. The bottom line is he doesn’t believe there is much to talk about his paintings. Tom desires one thing from a viewer, an emotional response.

Truth: Tom’s paintings speak for themselves. They show well and photograph well. Bold color and line drive his complex compositions. Like the literary genre Hyperbole, massive textural gestures exaggerate Tom’s everyday common situational vignettes. Despite a slight sheen, a finish that Tom adores, the heavy texture of Tom’s aggressive paint shows well on the internet, show-cards and magazine
advertisements. WYSIWYG – “What you see is what you get.” Visually, Brady’s work translates remarkably well into common language. An Abstract- Constructionist by nature, Brady’s paintings hold to some stringent ideals of structure, form and representationalism. Beyond effect of converging and divergent line, defying shadow and light, Depth of field, a term normally associated with photography, is a tool deftly employed by Brady. Steeped in traditional impressionist roots, albeit with the aggressive hand of an expressionist, Brady’s interpretation declares, demands even a rethinking of acceptable genre-based nomenclature
That was the easy stuff. The hard stuff is keeping step with the demands of his seniority. No need looking over his shoulder. Tom doesn’t need any help. No hand holding or studio visits. Simply put, Tom gets it done; he even comes ready with a gallery layout of his paintings and two copies of “his” release form. He delivers the work. I hang the work, with his help. Appropriate height is key to a satisfying experience with Tom’s work. Okay, now for the nuts and bolts. Here is what most folk don’t know about Tom’s work. Beginning with a street sketch, Tom squirrels away a gazillion sketches yearly. Looking back over his sketches he culls the first round returning in another 6 months for round two. Those that make the grade go into a different box. Final round drafts make it to the “pastel” elimination round. For each of his final paintings, Tom completes a pastel version first.

The pastel semi-final allows Tom advance notice of his palette. These studies are paramount to the resulting freedom and aggressive brushstroke. Each painting requires the use of 40 to 50 paintbrushes. With applying such heavy paint, overworking the paint runs to brown. Pre-knowledge of direction permits Tom to get in and get out keeping his colors pure; Tom’s whites are white. Clearly, he is a process-driven individual. This plays out exponentially in the marketing of his work. Congruently, Tom believes in a commensurate marketing process; each step building on the previous. Promotion wise, we do exceed our normal monthly resources and amp up our advertising to meet the demands of his seniority. The difficulty, the increase in work, is the education process that accommodates a Brady hanging.

I was wrong; I do have something to say. I have to be careful here. I get comments from this blog. A latest comment warned me about my word usage, saying “Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.” Tom’s artwork is “World Class.” I’ll eat these words without salt or pepper. The sad part is the Philadelphia Art Community is unaware of the National Treasure they have in Tom Brady. Unfortunately, they are waiting for him to die first; I am saddened by this.

Okay, here is the inside dope, Tom chose Philadelphia over Boston and New York. To a degree, he is a visual historian of Philadelphian Culture, Architecture and Landscape. His commitment to Philadelphia aligns concomitantly with the commitment to his craft. Despite the significant list of Philadelphia-based Brady collectors, there is not a demonstrable Philadelphia consensus claiming Tom Brady as their own, as he has claimed Philadelphia his own. I should not have to “shop” Tom’s paintings in New York to quantify or validate their caliber. Interestingly, New York will come to Philadelphia for him. Sadly, the same was true for Jim Bloom, my March exhibition. New York loves his work also. I am not for a moment suggesting artistic “misfittedness”. However, I am saying, if Philadelphia is to claim stand alone “World Class Notoriety” for its Art Community, “buy-in” of its world-class artists is mandatory.

Interestingly, most recently, I had a conversation with Rick Snyderman, of the Snyderman-Works Gallery. Rick Believes the climate is perfect for exponential growth in Philadelphia’s Arts and Culture community. That plays out with a significant political thrust and an understanding that an increase in Arts and Culture directly correlates to the growth of our tourism component of the City. Forgive my long windedness. Bottom line is that until recently, Philadelphia may not have been ready to accommodate the likes of Tom Brady or Jim Bloom. However, now, the growth curve having flattened out we have agreement from a significant player at ground zero in the game that believes we have entered into a period of receptivity, despite the lingering economic factors. I’m concurring.