Friday, June 25, 2010
Nancy E. F. Halbert is the consummate painter. Beyond that she is a painter’s painter; her vested interest evidenced by significant investment and sacrifice. She is consumed by her craft with no separation between her living and her working. In this, her life is seamless. Offering her the opportunity to show at Knapp, I requested that she “be all used up” after preparing for her first solo show here at our gallery. She has been diligent. Remarkably prolific, her work ethic is unparalleled. Nearly possessed, she creates out of need to see a vision fleshed out. Teacher, mom, wife, Director of The Muse Gallery, she is stretched to the limit. Yet and still, Nancy redefines commitment. Our lives mirrored against hers, she offers us no excuse for laziness. The truth be told, she makes the rest of us look as if we are travelling in reverse.
I demand a lot from my painters. Like a coach in the locker room at half time, I am always ready to give the “I want it all” speech. More than just words, I am sharing the Knappian work ethic. Everybody, including the boss, works long hard days on the Knapp team. While Barclay Knapp’s Art Gallery is not fast paced big business with multi-million dollar deals on the line like his other concerns, it is not uncommon to get the call from the boss at midnight or 1 a.m. in the morning. Yes, fundamentally, we are about winning. And beyond reason, we are willing to exhaust every available avenue towards realizing the goal of our vision. Nancy Halbert exemplifies the Knappian work ethic. The bar has been raised. Determining the Knapp’s future alongside the likes of Marian Locks Gallery, we must maintain the strictest measure of quality. But it is more than that. Any and all paintings that I have sold in the past must be validated or undergirded by what I sell today or tomorrow. I can only do this by continuing to find and promote the best art available. There is only forward and higher. All indications from my short tenure here in Philadelphia say that we are making progress.
The quality of painters now showing with the Knapp gallery evidences this forward progression. With our new reputation, painters that were not willing to show with us before are now seeking our representation. I have a problem with this. It is easy to say “I’m in” after the risk has been sifted out. There is no character in this. Interestingly, what I considered best quality 15 months ago does not meet the bar now. Our rejection percentage is near 92%. Our 2011 calendar is complete and demonstrates our “World Class” Status.” Setting a new precedent, we are in the process of releasing our 2011 calendar on the Knapp Gallery website. Further, the website will soon undergo significant reworking. Desiring a simple art driven presentation, we are investigating new approaches to offering a high quality viewing experience.
Just this past week, I was in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale Florida looking at their Art Scene as they begin to prepare for December and Art Basel/Miami. Given a whirlwind tour by a local gallerist, I was afforded an inside perspective typically unseen by the lay tourist and out-of-state collector. I saw my May 2011 painter, Al Razza, hanging alongside early Damien Hirsts, Boteros, Lichtensteins, Chagalls, Picassos, Miros, and Warhols at Gallery Art www.gallart.com , a Miami based wholesaler. More importantly, I saw local and imported painters showing at the retail local gallery level; the prevailing art that supports the Florida Art economy. Miami’s high dollar and slick Art Market is dramatically different than our seemingly parochial art community. Confidently, I am able to say that the quality of Knapp Gallery Art holds up not only here in Philadelphia, but also down in Florida.
While my trip to Florida was multifaceted, it was important for me to see how we as the Knapp Gallery held up against other prominent street level retail Galleries. I am excited to report that our Knappian vision, though still in its infancy, holds its own both here in the Mid Atlantic Region stretching southward through to the Florida Keys.
Nancy, in her strength of form, bold line, color and composition, has continued to offer us the movement of profound narrative, narrative that reflects a unique intimacy of a woman revealing herself. Sensual and provocative, Nancy’s life as a choreographer allows for her knowledgeable perspective of movement and form to prevail. The paintings, very much gestalt in their elements, collectively portray a well balanced waltz. More than cognitive, Nancy’s work is intuitive. Her line, color and composition evidence an easiness which affirms my declaration of intuition. The work demonstrates completeness though is not “labored” over. Nancy’s authoritative sense of freedom washes over us with the truth of her authenticity. While there is complexity in the layering of her composition and tone, the directness of her message allows for an easy relating of imagery.
Two months ago, I made studio visit to check on her progress. For the rest of my day, after my 11 a.m. arrival, I was overwhelmed by the sense one encounters when they’ve just met an extraordinary individual, in this case a woman a painted woman. Nancy’s deft poignancy, like a key in a lock, with intimacy unveils the lost secrets of today’s woman. Not as voyeur but rather seemingly a factual account and encounter, we are given a peek through a one way window into the unknown, the forgotten. In the end, we are affected; our senses recalibrated.