No smoke, no mirrors, just you and the canvas. Contemporary abstract painting, the sexiest of which is being called Casualism, considers imperfection a lynchpin. Sharon Butler inaugurated the term to describe this self-amused, anti-heroic style toying with Japanese wabi-sabi and its interest in impermanence. Although endearing on paper, it is a rearing Hydra, sprouting one art-historical reference after another, seeking institutional mythologies to give it any sense of importance or worth. This hissy-fit against branding in art ignores a hidden reality within abstraction: regardless of its neutral guise, the better work is still in reaction to something. Fred Gutzeit’s exhibition at Brian Morris Gallery, on view through November 16, counteracts the norm of vapid abstraction. His SigNatures series, an offering of abstract autographs from friends and colleagues, employs Casualist tactics with a more stirring result.
Gutzeit popped up on my radar in 2009 when the SigNatures series was a curious seed—like a multi-yolked egg. I needed to know how it acquired the nutrients to consider abstraction and realism with equal intensity. Gutzeit has been battling Minimalism since he arrived in Manhattan from Cleveland in the late 1960s. His earliest work applied hyperrealist chainlink fences upon atmospheric backgrounds, often in a single hue fluctuating in intensity. His hard-edge style, sparring with what he felt were the limits of Minimalism, continued when he moved to the Bowery in 1970. The intensity of Skid Row propelled him to depict the neighborhood and the turbulence of navigating its sidewalks and alleys, often in acute detail. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, he worked in numerous series: he photographed sidewalks at different times of day and depicted their topography, pebble by pebble, with a precision that inverts Monet’s depictions of the Rouen Cathedral. He recreated building facades on canvas using industrial siding accented by chaotic concrete and color swatches. He painted work gloves, commandeered from the street, on canvas, then eventually embellished and presented them as sculptural anti-products, to use the artist’s phrase. The SigNatures, a mercurial investigation of drifters that graced his studio, are shrewd observations tailored to a complex, abstract stage.
Beginning in 2011, Gutzeit sought out signatures from 13 artists and writers (of which I was one.) The series was accelerated by his discovery of Adobe Illustrator, encouraging transformations of line and pattern with precision and immediacy that would have been impossible otherwise. Elements were mixed and matched; innumerable prototypes were created in this digital sketchbook before making their way onto panels and then canvases. Although the panels vary in size, they are small overall, intimate. The signature always occupies the largest surface area possible, twisting to the beat of its internal hues. The backgrounds undulate between amoebic shapes internally patterned, some with the delicacy of Seurat’s pointillist landscapes, and tidal tones that surge and swell like Brian Eno’s ambient soundscapes or Goya’s skies. Gutzeit paints the edges of his canvases as well, which he hopes will serve as a continuation of the background and create objects revolving in space like a hologram. From afar, they have the complexity of a twisted nail puzzle and a three-dimensional map of the galaxy.
The SigNatures are certainly a series of portraiture according to Gutzeit. The aggressive color spectrum, somewhat kitsch, is not for the faint of heart. The composition itself also has some lofty ideals: the signature, a concrete but instinctual aspect of identity, should be coaxed into union with variables rendered in the background. The chaos of the backgrounds is a map of tumult and energy—some are overwhelmingly disorienting, others have a formulaic calm to them. Gutzeit has rendered many permutations, improvising regularly as he searched for synchronicity. Fifty total panels exist in the series, and Gutzeit’s dreams of cohesion have not been fulfilled—but he is better for it. Like a scientist, he continues to question an innately human curiosity: the wonder of structure.
Theodor Adorno noted that “a successful work of art is not one which resolves objective contradictions in a spurious harmony, but one which expresses the idea of harmony negatively by embodying contradictions pure and uncompromised, in its innermost structure.” What Casualists are missing is this innermost structure. They are nihilistic; everything has been done and thus the final frontier will be defined by tossing what we know in a blender, demolishing context, and instinctually recombining in hopes of transcendence or successful failure. Theirs is a Columbian mantra—seeking the sheer luck of collisions and new territory to be claimed. Gutzeit, however, knows that even abstract renditions of reality link to observations. His attempt to render the murky sandpits of identity through abstract means relies on thought rather than chance. He captures an essence, as inexplicable as first impressions or body language, through sinuous form and fervent mayhem. We should be demanding as much from abstract painting.
Fred Gutzeit’s roots are on the Bowery just above Prince Street. He has occupied his studio apartment since the1970s. His momentous ability to be both absurdly aware of his contemporaries and ride his own theoretical momentum has facilitated a vast oeuvre. His work is like a mutated history of the New York scene, annotated by persistent idiosyncrasies. Gutzeit alternates forms, taking as much interest in the magnitude of varied materials as he does in methodology. He geeks out on science and psychology, yet generates work that cuts to the core of emotional questions. Despite careful consideration of sculpture, installation, and digital renderings, his most recent paintings are immediate and visceral. I spoke with Gutzeit to hear more about where he’d been and where he’s going.
Lynn Maliszewski: So what are you working on right now?
Fred Gutzeit: I am grappling with how to be the most natural in doing the SigNature series. I’ve frozen and stylized gesture in these paintings. I consider it a classical way of thinking, where you take something and you shape it to get it to some kind of ideal. I balance it out by working with a process where my line and thus hand gesture aren’t too controlled; the line is imperfect. Right now I’m concerned with what I call ‘color buzz.’ I’m working with color like a musical chord. I’m not concerned with the gestural, physical performance part of it. It’s not Richard Anuszkiewicz and it’s not Willem De Kooning. I’m falling between the cracks as far as what the process is, but I live with that because I have an idea of developing a statement with color and developing the forms. That trumps the gesture for now.
LM: What gets the creative juices flowing?
FG: A good night’s sleep, going out on a good date, being on vacation or reading something. When I sit down to paint I usually pick up right where I left off automatically. When I’m looking into it and trying to solve problems, I’m thinking of all kinds of ideas. Too many ideas come up when I’m painting. This has been the process for almost as long as I’ve been working in art. Extra ideas are kind of maddening because I can’t work on everything at once so I jot it down in sketchbooks throughout the years. They’re like money in the bank and my process now is cashing in the bank account. I’m looking back at the sketchbooks and pulling things in.
LM: What do you think your identity is as an artist right now?
FG: Although it was distressing, it rings true: Ivan Carp of OK Harris was notorious for making off-hand, really devastating remarks about work he saw. Nearly 25 years ago, I went to the gallery to get his opinion and he says, “not exactly avant-garde,” then handed my images back to me. I have to accept that what I’m working on is not at the cutting edge. I’m trying to do something as good as possible and push whatever I can do with painting to a interesting level by my own interpretation of it. Maybe I can add something to what painting is about, what art is about. I’m creating a language, my language. I haven’t come up with something that stakes out a whole new area in the art world like doing a blank canvas and having people’s shadow be the meaning of it or something like that.
LM: Your work has evolved perceptually and emotionally all within the extreme immediacy of something tactile. Even your digital renderings are somehow lush. Why do you think that is?
FG: You don’t have to read it linearly, you don’t have to look at it from beginning to end. You can see the whole thing. In working on something like this, how you move around it and the scale is the thing. In painting, instead of controlling space, the ultimate is controlling time. You can shape time because you can experience it instantly. I’m looking to find out as much as I can about the real world, experimentally, tangibly if you want to call it that.
LM: How do your immediate surroundings influence you at this point?
FG: I usually have all types of things up that I’m working on, and things I’ve worked on in the past. I look at the current series and it influences me but I also have some key things up as reminders of where I’ve been. I have a drawing up that embodies my first step from realism to abstraction, a transition from outside to inside the studio. I have a print-out of drawings I made in 1968 because I was working with this idea of patterns back then and couldn’t really break it off into something coherent. That’s influencing me to look back into it. Ivan Carp made another comment that really stuck with me, he said, “you can do whatever you want, just make the change gradual.”
The Crux - A Conversation with Fred Gutzeit
Fred Gutzeit‘s transition from his earliest explorations of pattern in the 1960s to his
current output has it’s roots on the Bowery. He has
the momentous ability to be both absurdly aware of
his contemporaries while riding his own theoretical
momentum. Gutzeit has always been one to mutate
forms. Artistic triumphs and defeats are
opportunities to realign his curiosity with his work,
and this can often mean a completely new direction.
I spoke with Gutzeit and attempted to acquire the
understanding of where he’d been and where is
Lynn Maliszewski: So what are you working on right now?
Fred Gutzeit: I am grappling with how to be the
most natural in doing the SigNature series. I’ve
frozen and stylized gesture in these paintings. I
consider it a classical way of thinking, where you
take something and you shape it to get it to some
kind of ideal. I balance it out by working with a
process where my line and thus hand gesture aren’t
too controlled; the line is imperfect. Right now I’m
concerned with what I call ‘color buzz.’ I’m working with color like a musical chord. I’m not concerned with the
gestural, physical performance part of it. It’s not Richard Anuszkiewicz and it’s not Willem De Kooning. I’m
falling between the cracks as far as what the process is, but I live with that because I have an idea of developing
a statement with color and developing the forms. That trumps the gesture for now. That trumps the gesture for
LM: Your abstracted landscapes were the first works of yours I connected with. They were flat, amoeba-like
renderings of energy, which has been a thread in your work since from the digital renderings to your current
SigNature series. What role does self-control play in taming such wild moments?
FG: Making art is making things clear, so you have to control things in a certain way. Painting, for me, is organic
and implies a kind of process where you can do something and change it and develop it in the spirit of Matisse
or Manet. It’s not just creating the finished object. The finished object is important, but it’s that past of the
finished object that makes it a painting. But there doesn’t necessarily have to be paint. The painting itself might
be photographed, digitized, shifted around on the computer, looked at again, changed with more paint or by
pasting something onto the canvas, whatever gets it to that feeling of completeness.
LM: What gets the creative juices flowing?
FG: A good night’s sleep, going out on a good date, being on vacation or reading
something. When I sit down to paint I usually pick up right where I left off
automatically. When I’m looking into it and trying to solve problems, I’m
thinking of all kinds of ideas. Too many ideas come up when I’m painting. This
has been the process for almost as long as I’ve been working in art. Extra ideas
are kind of maddening because I can’t work on everything at once so I jot it
down in sketchbooks throughout the years. There was a time when I would get
in a state of frustration about what to work on. Ideas were all over the place. In
1994, I started a sketchbook, re-drawing pages from earlier sketchbooks. I’ve
never written poetry, but I’ve had one poem I was trying to write for decades
and it starts out, “Stitches, Bridges, Words and Vision.” That’s as far as I got,
but I thought it might be an interesting group show. They’re like money in the
bank and my process now is cashing in the bank account. I’m looking back at
the sketchbooks and pulling things in.
LM: You’ve been a practicing artist for nearly 50 years, and you’ve embraced a number of styles and modes of
production. Can you tell us a little bit about your train of development?
FG: When I first really settled in New York in 1967, abstraction was the thing to do. I really wanted to be hip so
everything I did was voiding the figure in some way, but I implied the figure by including work gloves. That was
the human element. I wanted to make a comment on industrial society and products and so forth. I would see
work gloves as I walked down the street, either left there or thrown away, and it resonated. I thought my work
gloves might refer to something that’s been done, an act completed. I had a whole collection of them and I did
installations with them. The work glove was a product, but it was an anti-product. It was my idea of conceptual
art. Believe me, nobody understood it. Then I started making objects out of the work gloves. I got a bunch of
cotton gloves that I soaked in acrylic then built them up. Everything that I put on them was like an analogue for
activities that had been part of that glove. I did a series of those in 1968, and then I did them again in 1979,
1980, 1981, 1982. I was teaching a course at the University of the Arts, then the Philadelphia College of Art, and
it was everything but painting so I figured I would learn how to do installations myself. The work gloves were
like building blocks I could mix.
LM: In certain incarnations they feel like amputated digits, paralyzed and useless. But you shifted them into this
moment of positivity, where they were morphed into an object of beauty, a trophy of hard work. They also
fluctuated, even in your own language, between being sculptural independents and painterly components.
FG: Right, the installations defined the space with objects and the gloves transformed when they were placed in
different places on the wall, climbing up a column, or attached together to make a
screen. Then I was walking down the street in the West Village and looked through
this fence and saw a bunch of kids playing off in the distance on the playground.
Looking through the chain link I saw bright jerseys and different colors, and became
aware that that was all I could see. It started me on a whole series of painting the
chain link which, at the time, was my way of being a Minimalist. It suggested an
idea about society for me, where fences make good neighbors. I was working within
severe limits and defining a space in a simple, geometric way. I would show one link
in the painting with a different color or texture behind it. The link was like a neon
light line. This implied psychology to me, Freudian psychology, where the link was
the ego, the linear idea, and the field was the unconscious. I think it’s re-emerging in
my way of dealing with a line. Now the line comes from people’s handwriting, taking
the initial out of their signature and placing it on a field.
LM: The fence defines, and the viewer must then consider which side of it they are on. Sounds like an internal
conflict many young artists must consider regularly. Without the line, you’re floating in ambiguity in relation to
space and that isn’t necessarily the best thing.
FG: Right. I was talking about these things when everyone was seeking
freedom. When I was working out these ideas trying to come out of
Minimalism, I was thinking about limits. I thought that I was all over
the place. I needed something to define my methods. Now I’m working
with a line and I’m limited to the form that somebody else generates
but I’m taking it and shaping it. I’m still trying to keep to the spirit of
the person’s gesture and not change it completely. It’s my play on
identity and simultaneously a newly created identity. I was thinking of
these as having the same kind of truth and identity as somebody’s hairdo.
You can take on a particular look and you can decide whether it’s
somebody’s profound personality or not. Although we are really quite
different, I kind of admire Andy Warhol for the identity he could
create. Whatever he did, it seemed like it just unconsciously happened.
LM: The SigNatures feel conceptually similar in their flashy aesthetic that is really more of an obscuration of
identity. The slickness fools you into thinking design, but it does more to make the subject ambiguous than it
does to reveal who they are in the way graphic design might.
FG: Portraits are vehicles for commentary but can consider many different aspects. Chuck Close, for example,
never referred to his work as “portraits.” He was at Yale and the spirit was abstraction, so he named them
process paintings when he started out. What amazed me was how his process developed. In his film, he talked
about his painting technique and I was recently struck by the sentiment. When he starts the painting it’s just
kind of random colors. He’s not really fussy about it, he’s putting colors down he feels might work in larger
blocks. You’re reading it like you would a Seurat at a distance, where the colors pulse together. Then he goes in
and, on the colors that are there, say there’s a cerulean blue, he might go and take a light yellow blob over there,
and they mix and make a light green from a distance. He’s nuancing the colors. He might take a color that’s
totally wrong and add another color to it and make it right. I think this is a great painting process, where you
have your idea at the beginning and you can kind of let it unravel, then work into it to bring it back into focus.
I’m trying to apply it to what I’m doing. He’s working within this extreme limit for the portrait that he’s doing.
You can’t make it go all over the place spatially, you can’t make it go all over the place as far as color goes. He
managed to inject creativity into two naturalized techniques, generating these fantastic colors that ring.
The work of Fred Gutzeit will immediately embrace those who yearn for 1968, non-objective art, or getting thoroughly lost in an image. With more than a handful of large-scale canvases on display, Gutzeit’s work induces memories of psychedelia with obese swirling patterns, substantial flat expanses of color, and obscure shapes. OTT14 (2004), a standout due to Gutzeit’s guileless use of red and muted yellow, encompasses a tirade of crescent moons and menacing blobs that recede into a swamp-like abyss in the upper right. Painted opaquely and uniformly, he utilizes line and size to create retreating landscapes that are challenging to place. His images are tricky and seductive. A dance across his relentless patterns will ultimately terminate in space. Gutzeit has been an active artist since the late 1960’s, transitioning through a vast amount of media and subject matter. After painting landscapes in upstate New York Gutzeit transitioned into his current series, yearning to fashion more sublime landscapes considering rhythms and tensions that exist as a result of objects placed in nature. Reminiscent of late 19th century paintings based on the newly discovered microscope’s imagery, Gutzeit’s work explores dynamic interactions of energy within space that come to create the patterns he presents. The image resides within the canvas, yet whether it remains flat or seems to move in some direction is reliant upon the force of its internal components. He transforms reality into oblong forms, reacting to and generating vibes that affect the different aspects of his simulated environment. The canvases pulsate with energy, only further reflecting the force that materializes them found on canvas.
“Love to Fred from Lee Lozano”
Pocket Utopia is pleased to present a solo show of artist Fred Gutzeit. Paying homage,
through a billboard-sized installation and painting, to the late artist Lee Lozano, Fred
Gutzeit turns Pocket Utopia into a walk-in cosmology of wave, particle and worm hole. In
addition, Gutzeit will display preparatory drawings and relevant sketchbooks.
Gutzeit considers Lee Lozano a mentor. The idea for this show came from a notebook
that Lozano gave Gutzeit. The notebook, filled with graph paper, was inscribed with this
sentiment, “Love to Fred from Lee Lozano.” The notebook was used to plot out the
installation for Pocket Utopia.
Containing waves (and much, much more) similar in vibe to several Lee Lozano paintings,
Gutzeit’s printed and painted whirling, flashing landscape is a spectrumatic fantansia,
inspired by Lozano’s rule-based process. Fred Gutzeit expands upons Lee Lozano’s rules,
adding higher mathematics and good painterly hunches that map out the space and place
of a pocket utopia.
In the project space, artist and musician Jeremy Jones presents a hand-crafted and
unique surfboard and Audra Wolowiec continues to connect the lines between her
drawings, performances, and exchanges. In addition, Libby Hartle has editioned a new
and limited gocco print.
Kevin Regan will join Amy Lincoln as an resident artist.
In Conjunction with the exhibition, Fred Gutzeit will host several salon discussions;
including, Sunday, November 9th and Sunday, December 7th both starting at 4:00 pm.
Pocket Utopia is a relational exhibition, salon and social space run by artist Austin
Love to Fred from Lee Lozano
Pocket Utopia is a collaborative art space, for which Fred Gutzeit has installed Lee Wall, a 58-foot
installation that belongs to a series of works inspired by the painter Lee Lozano (1930-1999). Fred and Lee
were friends during the 1960s peace and love era. Before Lozano famously made her exit from the art
world, she left Gutzeit a notebook with the inscription "Love to Fred from Lee Lozano." Fast forward thirty
years, Gutzeit picks up where the latter's Wave series left off. Given that Lozano prized the intertwining of
Art and Self, "living her art" at all costs, the gifted notebook must be a momentous passing of a baton.
I was there to see Lee Lozano's posthumous 2003 PS1 show of disconcerting oversized drawings of
hammers and other tools, as well as an intimate notebook of drawings with enigmatic phrases such as "I
WILL MAKE MYSELF EMPTY TO RECEIVE COSMIC INFO." Lozano was on the edge, and Gutzeit is
reverently hounding these margins by referencing Lozano's scientific renderings of progressive light waves.
Lee Wall is an exciting installation, with its cascading Art Nouveau forms, rhythmic circular waves rendered
in multitudes of color that are drawn, digitally manipulated and redrawn.
Key to Pocket Utopia's founder Austin Thomas vision, the narrow nook of the gallery multi-tasks as a salon
for the co-mingling of ideas. Gutzeit has chosen to display Lozano's notebook and related works by other
artists. Audra Wolowiec has created Intimate Apparel (for Fred Gutzeit & Lee Lozano), two hip shirts with
holes cut out on the sides for "comrades" to slip their hands around each other's backs. Not related but
worthy of mention is artist-in-resident Amy Lincoln, whose paintings of her office co-workers depict the
painfully normal. With all of this, Pocket Utopia succeeds in creating the spontaneity of the
Gesamtkunstwerk, or total artwork.
Rupert Ravens Contemporary
After working primarily with urban found objects, Gutzeit decided to “go back to nature”.
Moving beyond the landscape’s visual beauty his paintings and prints are improvisations
based on nature built with the primary colors of red, yellow and blue. The forms in the work
play with the notion of vibrations evolving into shapes as in the quantum world of “wave
particle duality”. Gutzeit’s transformations are manifest of “vibescape” and “visual music” –
as sound waves are to music, light waves are to painting: a visualization of the
Art in New York City
After working for decades with urban found objects, I came to a point
where I needed to refresh. “Go back to nature” is the old advice to
artists. Otter Falls is a site in the Catskills that I painted and
photographed over a period of ten years. In a way it was a found
object. While on the Bowery in 2001, I did a set of ink drawings to
interpret my feelings of the site. These black and white brush drawings
were the beginning of my current patterned work. The feeling of the
original site become an “abstract” space that took on a life of it’s own.
This moves me from depicting landscape to exploring Nature beyond
landscape’s visual beauty: green is made of yellow and blue; earth–
brown is red and black; light is white (in the spectrum, all the colors).
My explorations are improvisations based on nature built with the
primary colors of red, yellow, and blue –pushed to black and white
expressing vibrations and waves as a play on the quantum world of
“wave particle duality”. My goal is to play the visual vibrations as a
The New Criterion
In Williamsburg, Fred Gutzeit has put his signature on “SigNature” at Sideshow
Gallery.2 Through photographs, watercolors, and computer manipulation, Gutzeit
transforms street graffiti into op-art abstraction. Atop eye-popping patterns, he signs
his paintings in a script of taffy swirls. While the underlying patterns can interfere
with the energy of the writing, Yijing sig. 5 has such flourish it calls to mind (to my
mind, at least) Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Sultan with one of history’s
Fred Gutzeit’s elementary school principal told
his mother that Fred should have art lessons.
Years later he’s a full-fledged painter working in
acrylic on canvas and watercolor on paper.
Incorporating digital prints and photography into
his painting is also part of his practice. Fred’s
work is about finding the unexpected. Says the
artist of his work, “I’d like to take your eyes for
a joyride.” Since 1970, Fred has worked from
his studio on the Bowery and currently his
greatest challenge is pulling together the
various ideas comprising the last 50 years worth
of his sketchbook. He’s currently working
through an idea called “SigNature,” which
involves six large paintings and dozens of small
watercolors and acrylic panels. He’s also
planning to do an outdoor wall billboardinstallation.
After that he’ll continue to sort
through old sketchbook ideas and work them
out in permanent sculptural form.
American Artist Magazine
“A TREE AND TWO or more eyes . . . ,” says painter Fred Gutzeit of his own work. This seems an odd thing to say about work that’s fiercely urban and very intellectual, despite the literal-mindedness with which objects seem to be represented.
But in fact the artist is talking about the difficulty of seeing a tree or anything else with more than two eyes – a difficulty his painting takes as a starting point: “The more aspects of a scene experienced,” says Gutzeit, “the deeper the understanding gained, the more the viewer connects the visual event with other phenomena.”
To show as many aspects of an image, or idea, as he can, Gutzeit frequently works in series of paintings, or if he does a single canvas it is apt to contain more than one view of an idea. Gutzeit’s painting technique and the experience created by the images are connected and have a common ancestor in the artist’s early experience in printmaking.
“The intaglio image,” explains Gutzeit, “is built up by overlays of work in different techniques: etching, engraving, scraping and burnishing, aquatint, and drypoint. You can also control certain effects by biting the plate in the acid for different lengths of time.”
“Choosing techniques is a question of having a general idea of what can be done, then doing what feels right. I begin to figure it out as I look at preliminary sketches and mull over an idea. Especially if I’m working on something big I want to leave the plate open in the early stages, so it won’t just reproduce the sketch.”
“For me, etching and drypoint are the easiest ways to begin, drawing on the plate in a loose, sketchy way. I might start in etching – it’s a fluid line – but I’d already be thinking of the second stage when, for instance, I might want to mass in some larger areas with aquatint.”
“I like the subtle contrast between etching and engraving. The engraved line encounters more resistance than the etched – it’s a sharp, clean line. You feel the metal cutting. Etching, on the other hand, feels almost like drawing with a ballpoint pen. I also like scraping, which is working in reverse. The other processes darken the image. Scraping lightens but also tends to gray; the next step is to burnish, and this makes the plate print white.”
“You can soften edges with scraping and burnishing (sometimes only with burnishing); in fact, the deepest line you put in you can scrape out again, although traces are left.”
“As the plate is worked on, knots of energy emerge; they are worked on at different paces. You are always adding and subtracting at the same time. If you are working in black and white, you create a sense of color – colder or warmer – with texture. Or you can give emotional color to an area by contrasting, say, smooth areas and rough, jagged lines.”
“The different states of Rembrandt’s prints – like the ‘hundred guilder’ print – show how much latitude you have in developing an image, adding and subtracting over a long period of time. Rembrandt kept rewriting to say it better.”
It is the printmaker’s habit of working in “overlays” that Gutzeit has found useful in painting, although the terms on which the layering of paint is carried out are completely different. He works with acrylic, which dries quickly, and presents a problem in blending. “I don’t want to work fast enough to blend while the paint is wet,” he explains, “so I build the image up in layers, essentially one color at a time, in some places blending colors wet to make gradations, but also scumbling. The veil of color merges with and modifies other colors underneath. It doesn’t take too many layers to build up an image; the last veils are only a few threads and specks of colors here and there.”
“To build up such images,” continues Gutzeit, “I have to isolate in my mind the parts that have to be painted in each layer, and it is this mental separation of colors and areas that very much relates to the separation of techniques in printmaking.”
“It’s a general process for a kind of organic growth of a picture – not just a color separation. I often start with a rough charcoal drawing on the canvas. Then I build the image up evenly – layer by layer – rather than pulling it down like a window shade finishing one section at a time.”
“In one sense,” Gutzeit goes on to say, “what I am doing in my paintings is superimposing colored drawings. It’s a little like the process of drawing a form and coloring it – ‘putting lines around ideas,’ as a child once put it. This is another way of painting with color, in contrast to placing different daubs and pieces of color side by side. This process doesn’t necessarily subordinate color to line – in fact, the integrity of color may be enhanced.”
Gutzeit’s ability to explain the making of images suggests a flair for teaching. But he has tended to be wary of it, finding that it interfered with his work. Nonetheless, although he is primarily a painter, he has taught printmaking at the Cooper School of Art (Cleveland), the Cleveland Institute or Art, and Oberlin College. He attributes a large part of the influence printmaking has exerted on him to the impact of a forceful teacher, Carroll Cassill, under whom he studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
“I was not initially very good in Cassill’s class,” admits Gutzeit. “The quality of the teaching gave the subject interest. He’d talk about, oh say, an Air Force pilot flying a plane, and the metaphor would somehow relate to what was going on in my work. He gave you everything but the exact description; his observations were rather like koans [Zen Buddhist teaching riddles]. It was up to you to make the connections, and you learned to ask questions.”
Cassill also imparted to his students a “sense of medium,” an understanding of the poetic groundwork of printmaking technique. He taught printmaking as a dynamic process, moving through the various states of the print.
“The initial drawing on an intaglio plate is like moving boulders,” comments Gutzeit. “You feel the resistance of the medium. When you reach the final states, almost all the space is under control; it has been worked on. The printmaker has moved back and forth between suggestion and summation, between elaboration and simplification.”
Several lines may be sketched in; one is discovered to be important – to sum up the idea; the printmaker marks it in boldly. “Elaborate, then simplify,” Gutzeit says.
“The whole business of states in printmaking is as much a philosophy as a technique,” observes Gutzeit. “You are working an image out in all its ramifications.”
Working a single idea out in the successive states of a plate is for him analogous to the way a painter works out his ideas in a series of paintings: “In both painting and printmaking, the artist is trying to find out what the idea is saying – in fact, what goes on a lithographic stone or intaglio plate could be looked at as an idea working itself out, but the printmaker puts all the work into one stone or plate rather than making a whole series of paintings.
“The idea or ‘plate’ a painter works on is vague; it is in the artist’s head. Looked at this way, the paintings in a series are something like prints on canvas.”
A recent series of paintings is of a section of sidewalk, slightly magnified (each 46 x 36) and seen under light conditions ranging from the pale lucency of early morning to the lurid brilliance of a rainy, neon-lit night: “Here are pictures representing different aspects of a single idea – a multiplicity of expressions leading to an experience in depth. Each painting is like a step in a walk, each step a different experience in time, each experience a different reflection of environment.”
The cumulative effect of the sidewalk series is eerily like the effect of Monet’s water-lily series. In both, the artist has been interested in the way different kinds of light make the same thing look different. But the starkness of Gutzeit’s subject and his refusal to compromise its plainness stand in sharp contrast to the 19th century painter’s lyric virtuoso effects. In even sharper contrast is the difference in the way the two painters deal with color – the relationship between light and object that is their subject.
Monet, in placing daubs of color side by side, made of the canvas an art object representing his impression of the effect of light on objects. Gutzeit works with illusionistic layers of color – those superimposed drawings – to make a different kind of art object, one that elicits from the viewer the imaginative response, “light.” We are responding with our own impression rather than to the artist’s impression of different kinds of light. The work of art thus comes to exist as an idea in the viewer’s mind analogous to the idea – the “plate” – in the painter’s.
This response is not unlike the response enforce by traditional realist painting, but Gutzeit is painting a “reality” not really like anything ever seen by the naked eye – the granules of sidewalk matter writ large. He is painting a mental reality. We see the granules as they’d look if we had microscope eyes, or at least more and better eyes than we do.
Thus these paintings are not really about sidewalks or even altogether about light and color, but about the subtlety of perception. And as if to make sure the viewer understands this, Gutzeit suddenly shifts the frame near the end of the series, a technical change to startling effect: “At first the grains of matter composing the sidewalk section were constant – I made a stencil – and it was only the light that changed. Now the random grains are shifting into structures, geometric configurations – a kind of order.”
Visually, the structural shift of frame amounts to a subtle change in texture, but it is all the more disarming for being hard to perceive: you know something is happening but you don’t know what. Gutzeit is very aware of how a small change in structural texture evokes a subliminal response. In looking at the sidewalk series, one is reminded of his observation about intaglio printmaking . . . that changing the texture gives areas a feeling of being colder or warmer in color. Of course, intaglio prints are black and white, and the sidewalk paintings are sidewalk color, whatever that is at a particular time of day. But in a context where the perception of color in objects very clearly depends on the time of day, and the observation of them is infused with a careful minimum of obvious lyricism, color takes on some of the formal, emotionless constancy we associate with black and white. In this context, a change in texture is a change in emotional color, however subliminal – but why? There is nothing “significant” about sidewalks. We are looking at a recognizable subject with no subjective content, but reacting with a start to the kind of perceptual difficulty we expect from abstract painting, and it is an odd feeling. At this juncture of viewing, one begins to suspect that extra eyes are growing.
A great deal of the energy we sense in a good etching comes from our subtle awareness that in looking at the print we are looking at a reflection of the “real” art process. In responding to the print, we actively reconstruct something of the process of change that went on in the artist’s mind – the idea, the “plate.” Gutzeit’s paintings call on the viewer’s participation in a similar way, and one sees his preoccupation with idea-made-visible worked out clearly and typically in paintings like his series of chain-link fences and work gloves.
The fences are enlarged close-ups (mostly 48 x 36 inches) of a section of chain-link fence through which different skies and other elements are visible. Gutzeit describes these works as urban landscapes, but goes on to explain that they are not really so much pictures of chain-link fences as they are pictures of “ego states.” Although the chain-link fences are portrayed with what seems to be meticulous realism, they are not, any more than the sidewalks were, the only subject of these pictures. Gutzeit positioned and shaped the fence segments all alike with a stencil, then altered the environment – sometimes only color – seen through them, creating a series of moods, or ego states. These could be called the real subject of the pictures, just as the perception of light and texture could be called the real subject of the pictures in the sidewalk series.
The work glove paintings are another kind of urban landscape, an industrial landscape. Gutzeit painted them in New York, but first became interested in the subject in Cleveland, his hometown. He had his studio in a yard in the flats near the Cuyahoga River where iron-ore boats were unloaded, and on his walks through this yard he picked up various objects, including discarded work gloves: “They seemed to me to be full of things – I don’t know exactly what.” He recalls fondly the space of the yard, the piles of lime and slag, the cranes . . . He is still fascinated with oily, industrial structures and the way they fill space.
He liked the gloves for their richness in meaning, for being actualities and for exuding an aura of being about something. And he came to see the idea of the work glove on the ground in the yard as a kind of focal point. The glove was one more object in the industrial landscape, but it also represented human involvement in industry. It was a product of the industrial process as well as a part of it. He wanted above all to show the human energy fundamental to the mechanical abstraction, “industry,” but he did not want Social Realism – didn’t want to show the figures of workers striving. So: A series of larger-than-life work gloves, all showing signs of wear, some irradiated by neon-tubelike cardiographic festoons -- symbolic representations of dream/energy states, the life the glove’s wearer had left in it.
The deliberately literal-minded representation of these energy states is a manifestation of Gutzeit’s interest in the interaction between matter and energy. He wants his paintings to show not only objects themselves, but their part in a larger process: “If an object is to be considered in a painting, show it in a context and give a hint of the forces acting on it.”
Gutzeit’s converging sense of the importance of energy, process, motion, and idea have made his paintings more complicated over the years. Sometimes they are filled with a variety of objects seen from different points of view, and sometimes relatively simple images like sidewalk granules are informed by a complex idea, the understanding of which requires an act of complicity on the part of the viewer.
In earlier works the artist was interested in seeing “how much you can get out of a little bit – the implications of things.”
“At one time, I thought resonance was the most important thing in art,” he remembers, “but now I think there’s something else, too. My work has lost a serenity; I’m redefining, bringing to the surface more realistic stuff I’d veiled over before. I like to take resonating objects and put them into a complicated composition.”
“I like the realism of using everyday, mundane things, but I like to work them into a framework.”
The “realism” of Gutzeit’s industrial paintings is a poetic one in which real work gloves are seen in imaginary factories. However recognizable, such paintings are no more imitations of factually observable scenes than the sidewalks are. They depict mental realities and they partake of an order that is predominantly intellectual, even aesthetic.
This kind of “mentalness” has, not surprisingly, been true of Gutzeit’s prints – among his earliest work – as well as of his paintings: “This isn’t a shadow box,” says Gutzeit of the final state of an intaglio print. “It’s not a realistic space but rather a mental space in which things have their place.”
One painting in which Gutzeit creates a remarkably complicated mental space is Dog with Chain Link Fence and Morning Glories. Gutzeit developed the painting step-by-step as a composite image. First came the fence (a subject interest which grew out of the earlier scenes of chain-link fences). Then Gutzeit saw and photographed some morning glories on a fence; they became part of the painting. He liked “the juxtaposing of contrasting elements – the hardness of the fence, the sweetness of the flowers – and I wondered if there might not be a third element. A dog peering through the fence felt like the right opposite.”
There is an element of shock to the painting – the unexpected. But the situation of the picture exists: A fenced-in junk yard and a guard dog, or any kind of fenced yard with a dog.
“The fence sets limits – defines area . . . The dog guards (enforces the limits of) the area.” These terms refer to Gutzeit’s painting ideas. “The flowers decorate and soften.”
“The fence and the flowers are two civilizing aspects: Restraint and politeness. The dog is the irrational . . . I didn’t want it to be too sinister or threatening,” Gutzeit explains, “so I tried to find pictures of Irish Wolfhounds. I used the picture file in the library and found maybe a dozen pictures to work from. Because of the enlargement of the images – the painting is about 6’ x 4 ½’ – some people have thought the dog is a bear. No. It’s an Irish Wolfhound.”
The enlargement of the images, whatever else it does, disorients us. It heightens the effect of the dog’s malevolence and the flowers’ piercing sweetness. Despite the probability of the scene, one feels that its reality is more mental than material. But neither the dog nor the morning glories seem unnatural: One would sooner call them “supranatural.”
A composite-image painting – which, for all its earmarks of realism, is even more supranatural – is one of a time machine (see illustration on Contents page) in which the life of the working man is shown. A wheel in the foreground frames the days of the work week – days of work and days of rest. This wheel is part of an enormous machine that seems to proliferate by endless reduplication of gears and other parts.
Complex as the arrangement of, say, the gears is, Gutzeit recalls doing no more than two or three preliminary drawings for them. He did others to work out the relative size of the different elements and the values the different areas were to have.
Gutzeit’s drawings are very often studies of placement, as are drawings he did for a painting of a benign dog, a Labrador Retriever. This dog – oddly foreshortened – juts alarmingly forward from a field of bananas. The dog seems to be painted from a different point of view and in a slightly different scale than the bananas, and the juxtaposition of these difficulties with the silliness, even the absurdity, of the subject matter induces – like the enlargement of the fierce dog and morning glories – an odd feeling of displacement in the viewer. One’s sense of balance is upset – and more so than by works which signal by their abstraction that (like these paintings) they are about the trickiness of basic perception. Devoid of any overt subject matter, the abstract works have to be about something like perception, because there isn’t much else left to be about. Abstract paintings “about” such basics are actually easier to read than Gutzeit’s paintings; there is something comfortable about a thing being what it seems to be.
The dog with bananas painting, on the other hand, seems to be about a dog. In fact, the Labrador has been rendered with meticulous attention – the coat, the lightstruck short-haired coat of a “real” Labrador, the eager humble eyes peering right into the viewer’s face, the paws, the very ones we know and love – but the dog is strangely more there than the bananas he sits among. He is too present for them; he is the wrong size – he looms so – and what is he doing with bananas anyway? Dogs don’t even like bananas. It is impossible to make emotional “sense” of the subject matter, which only reinforces the oddness of the perceptual disjunctions the artist has given us to contemplate. Looking at a painting like this, we must strip away layers of ideas about the meaning of aesthetic reality, and in the end we are left with the relative truth of perception. This process is analogous to the way the painter broke the painting down into parts according to the kinds of brushwork he was to use, and this process, like the superimposition of “colored” drawings, is analogous to the way a printmaker breaks his image down into techniques like etching, engraving, and scraping. So then, maybe, to bring the painter himself back into the discussion,“ . . . a way of painting reflects a way of thinking, and the technique of how the picture is made is an extension of the experience created by the image.”
The dog and the bananas seem arbitrarily conjoined in every way, and yet they are a unity in our eyes. Obviously, the only place the reality exists is in our heads. It is a mental reality. But whatever is true for the viewer of a painting like this, it is true for the artist that it matters a great deal where the dog is. An so Gutzeit makes drawings to figure out placement relationships within this and other canvases. And he also uses drawings to “figure out what’s happening, what the stuff means.” Then he starts working on the canvas.
“I can do all kinds of studies,” he says, “but I still don’t know what it will look like on the canvas; the scale is different; the quality of the paint can’t be predicted in drawings.” For the sidewalk and other series, he needed drawings to work out the relationship between the paintings, to give him a “sense of overview.”
Interestingly, he also made some use of photographs to help him work out the sidewalk series, but, despite the high recognizability of the objects he paints, he makes surprisingly little use of this resource, relying more on memory and actual observation to produce his effects. “I noticed the states of light and their effects on the sidewalk, and I took photographs of objects on sidewalks in different light – broken glass, garbage, crushed cans, clothing, refuse. In building the sidewalk series, I’ve worked from observation, memory, and invention – let’s call the process reconstruction.”
Because Gutzeit is painting mental realities, he does not concern himself with the kind of absolute rigor a realist painter like Thomas Eakins brought to bear, involving minute observations of every phase of process, careful analysis – often by photographic means – of the smallest movements of, say, a running horse.
“In science, you have to keep the same set of conditions, but it’s the experience that’s important in art. There is a constant, a coherence, but it’s the coherence of experience, and that, in a sense, is subtler than the rigorous constancy of conditions science demands. The light in the sidewalk series isn’t ‘real’ light, yet the changes make sense.”
Indeed, the changes do make sense. The technique of how the pictures are made is very much a part of the viewer’s experience, as are the disjunctions of perception the artist seems deliberately to create. Whether confronted with a series or with one painting, the viewer is called upon to be an artist too: To reconstruct the mental reality of the subject matter, to fill in between the layers of color, and in so doing to create a “plate” – an idea of the image – analogous to the one in the artist’s mind.
And if it is at this very place – the place where extra eyes grow – that the influence of printmaking on Fred Gutzeit’s painting becomes most apparent, that is only to say that in mastering the poetic groundwork of one medium, printmaking, he came to another one, painting, with a clear sense of how to find its poetic groundwork . . . and found it.
Gutzeit combines a hyperrealist interest in mundane objects (food, animals, detritus) with a not very hyperrealist (nor very painterly) brush and with peculiar disruptions of space. By staring directly at the ground, and often by taking great liberties with perceived reality, Gutzeit not only sandwiches dimensions together, but commingles them. Barbed wire runs into gravel strewn with litter, while behind, or reflected in a puddle, floats a skyward view of a building under construction, all these elements conjoined in a dizzyingly warped perspective. Similarly, a dog gazes upward? outward? at the viewer while behind? under? it are strewn bananas on a gravelly surface. The surface curves away from our view at the top of the painting, indicating that the dog is the focal point for a fish-eye picture.
This new talent group show presents paintings by six realists who have not had solo shows in New York. The most striking picture is Fred Gutzeit’s Dog and Banana. In this strange and remarkable composition the pebbled pavement is strewn with bananas, and the dog emerges from the uptilted picture plane to confront the viewer in his own space. The very gentle soulful expression on the dog’s monumental face heightens the drama created by the realistic rendering of this absurd subject.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer - 1977
Helen Cullinan, Art Critic
“I have at times tried to do purely theoretical works, painting that didn’t start from some moment of concrete experience,” Fred Gutzeit writes in the brochure for his exhibition at the Cleveland Institute of Art. “The result has usually been a dead end. So I look for something concrete to start with.”
Gutzeit paints common objects, easily identified, easily tagged, understood without hesitation. Some such objects that have dominated his paintings in recent years are a work glove, a chain link fence, a time clock and a sidewalk. The sidewalk sometimes is littered with paper and string fragments, and sometimes it glistens, wet, reflecting the glow of a neon sign in the limpid night blackness.
The pun relating “concrete” reality to paintings of cement sidewalks is hard to ignore, perhaps intended, slightly epidemic.
I for one yield to the temptation to repeat what someone has already said before me, without a blush, about the “tensions between the concrete and the abstract” that Gutzeit’s sidewalk paintings evoke.
If someone paints sidewalks, that’s his fault. Why, anyway, a sidewalk? And why of all things, 21 paintings of sidewalks all in a row, uniformly 46 by 36 inches, which is what Gutzeit gives us (along with many other works, to be sure) in the present exhibition.
Gutzeit explains it himself with reference to the series as a “visual walk.” That is, the experience of the sidewalk at different times of day and in different weather; of the sidewalk that transcends itself to become a visual abstraction and a mental voyage. A sidewalk is a bridge. A sidewalk is a sidewalk is a sidewalk.
The 21 painting “Sidewalk Series” hangs in a circular arrangement – a superb design touch in the installation by John Paul Miller. The isolation heightens the experience of the familiar patch of pebbled surface that shifts in pattern and focus and changes color, ending up as a kind of fantasy-illusion.
In assorted other sidewalk paintings outside the circle, the sidewalk appears in combination with the canvas work glove, with twists of twine and patterned paper scraps, broken glass, and so forth. Themes and variations.
The glove, too, reappears in a dozen different versions, as merely a neon outline, solarized, changing in color, done in photographic detail, done in chain link.
The chain link changes color, scale, size and intensity in similar ways. At one point, the chain link pattern becomes a trellis for morning glories; one of the open squares frames the furry face of a dog with a lavender tongue that matches the flowers, and the painting is charged with the tension of the woven heavy-guage wires and the garish color.
Another unforgettable image, part of no series this time, is that of the “Dog With Bananas,” depicting a dachshund in foreshortened perspective, surrounded by a littering of that elongated yellow fruit. It is a strange painting, beautifully painted (as Gutzeit’s paintings tend to be, with a telling brush-stroke), ambiguous enchanting.
The 15-year retrospective honors Gutzeit, a graduate of the Cleveland Art Institute class of 1962, as the year’s distinguished alumnus. Many watercolors, preparatory studies and early works are shown beside the oils, which form the main body of the show, a large one.
Gutzeit is a native Clevelander and resident of New York City, where he drove a taxi for years in order to indulge his painting. He also studied in Mexico and the Pratt Graphic Center, where he later taught. He currently is an M.A. degree candidate at Hunter College.
Arts Magazine – April, 1977
Like the paintings of many of his contemporaries and predecessors, Fred Gutzeit's document the tension between two of the eye's most serious pleasures: the perception of abstract relationships and the perception of concrete particulars. Gutzeit anatomizes this tension with special acuity in a series of fifteen paintings of a section of sidewalk reflecting time-of-day and weather changes.
The scale is not the one we are accustomed to; we are looking in these paintings at magnifications of particles not ordinarily so clearly perceptible. Although the effects of light, time, and weather on this scale are roughly the same as on the usually visible scale, the documentation of changes is newly compelling because of the context in which it takes place. Gutzeit excels in the slightly strange, that which disorients us without our quite knowing why.
In the sidewalk paintings the strangeness of scale is by no means the only perceptual disorientation we are presented with. Less expected, perhaps, is the surprise of these paintings as relatively far and distinct planes held up to horizontal view. In ordinary scale, we are accustomed to seeing sidewalks in head-on view, looming from the untitled plane beneath our feet. In magnified scale, we are accustomed to seeing sidewalks or any matter as through a lens – close to the eye and wrapped around our field of vision, not cooled out and rectangularly contained at a distance. These strangenesses are only the beginning of a catalogue of perceptual disorientations in which Gutzeit involves the viewer of the sidewalk paintings. Although the series seems to imitate an aspect of matter with almost photographic realism, the sidewalk paintings are neither imitations nor impressions but constructions rigorously controlled by the painter's extra-realistic, or abstract intensions.
The paintings at the beginning of the series have a field-like quality. No configurations of particles are visible, and visual impact is evenly spread across the paintings. However – another oddness – light and shadow from one light source on various particles evokes a disembodied chiaroscuro – evokes it only to dispel it: these sidewalks are not to be so charged with meaning.
Much later in the series, around the thirteenth painting, Gutzeit begins sly variations in the field which seem to suggest that order will resolve itself from randomness. Sometimes we can find symmetry in some of the paintings in the night section, which are subtly dominated by geometric figures. And we are tempted to carry our sense of order from painting to painting, which we are not going to be allowed to do. Gutzeit builds up pattern only to dissolve it into randomness again. The ordering and dissolution of pattern into field is a complete cycle within the series, a cycle analogous to the cycle of time-of-day and weather effects. However, the movement from painting to painting within these cycles is not a gentle bath in the continuity of process. As the eye moves from painting to painting, there is a rhythm of contrast between conjunction and disjunction: sometimes the eye moves easily, and sometimes it does not. Suddenly the field grid shifts into pattern; suddenly there is an acceleration in light change degrees. These pace changes prevent us from ever taking the next painting too much for granted, alert the eye to the less easily perceived differences in the paintings, and keep our experience of the series active rather than contemplative, as in viewing Rothko's Houston Chapel series.
Having said all this is almost to have scrutinized the paintings beyond their major effect: that of documenting changes in our perception of matter under different conditions of weather and time. These paintings might be seen as an ambitious restatement in twentieth-century terms of Monet's obsession with the varieties of light. But in Gutzeit's paintings matter is not dissolved in our perception of it, which may be a way of saying that his paintings were not conceived in the romantic tradition. The stark concreteness of Gutzeit's subject matter stands in sharp contrast to Monet's lyric virtuoso effects.
Gutzeit woos us with stunning effects only in the night section of the series. In this section we see the puddled nighttime sidewalk reflecting neon lettering. The words of a sign are seen more and more clearly reflected in the dark water, then are shown disturbed, presumably by wind. The liquid brilliance is then "dried up," and night light refracted with less brilliance from the particles of the sidewalk itself. Then the variously lit night draws back, too, and once again the stones themselves, with their hard outlines and uninviting, minimally reflective surfaces, throw the viewer back on his own sense of unembellished perception.
Fred Gutzeit's paintings are a vehicle for exploring conjunctions and disjunctions and the tensions between opposites. The tension between the concrete and the abstract is only the most obvious one. Perhaps the greatest pleasure of these paintings is that their disorienting ambiguity remains fruitful; we need not decide what they are about, but can return to the paintings again and again for the variety of questions they pose as answers. (Susan Caldwell, April 20-May 7)
Artnews – October 1977
Gutzeit continues to tread the line between Photo Realism and patterned abstraction, continuing as well to walk with his eyes to the ground. The letters, speckles, and what seem to be myriad pebbles and shards of glass that make up the patterns are derived from the detritus of city sidewalks, and from the light-reflecting qualities of pavement after a rain. Gutzeit's newest works are the most homogeneous to date, and their imagery is the most ambiguous – or abstract, depending on one's point of reference. The paintings, in shades of blue, purple, deep red and highlighted with yellows and off-whites, are also Gutzeit's most vibrant. His final acceptance of all-over composition includes complete command of a formal vocabulary charged with its own ambiguous references.
Arts Magazine – October 1976
Very close up (but not always right side up) views of objects and bits of ground were the visual subjects of Gutzeit’s paintings. Rocky textures like that of gravel embedded in a cement sidewalk, were the backgrounds on which twine and other strewn objects formed twisting, intertwining patterns for the eye to follow around the canvas surface. In several compositions, a large, central object is depicted – a work glove, a dog, a neon reflection in a puddle. The paintings are very gray, the color of gritty found objects and gravel.
These paintings were hard to read due primarily to the angle of the artist’s vision, his palette, and the patterning of the backgrounds. We try to read these paintings because we recognize the objects, and we look for the proper angle of vision with which to decipher the whole composition. For an intangible reason, these paintings contain elements of humor. They are not instances of deadpan reporting, as in similar scenes by Photo Realists; their expressiveness is in the artist’s attitudes to these objects and scenes, conveyed via an almost indefinable aspect of his style of realistic painting.
The New Yorker Magazine - 1976
Large oil paintings that catch the dim iridescence of, say, oily cast-off work gloves and other sidewalk litter are prominent in this first local one-man show by an artist whose painting (also included here) of a large dog sitting on a banana-strewn street was one of the memorable works in last year’s crop of group shows. Razor Gallery, 464 West Broadway, New York, NY