The next exhibition at Nancy Hoffman Gallery will be new works by Rupert Deese, opening on May 3 and continuing through June 16. Inspired by his travels to California and the Sierra Nevada mountains, particularly the headwater areas of the Kern and Merced rivers, the new works echo the rivers’ geological shapes in abstracted form, in a visual language the artist created.
The artist has written some notes on the subject of these paintings to aid the viewer in understanding the shapes, their whys and wherefores, as well as the colors. About the shapes: These shapes model the paths, curves, and peripheral mountains in the headwater areas of the Kern and Merced rivers in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
They are formed by arranging triangular plywood tiles in a precisely scaled mold and bonding them edge-to-edge to create an accurate scale model of the rivers’ geological shapes. The new shapes seek to bring the grace of each river’s topography—its rims, pitches, stretches, and meanders—indoors.
There is a rich correspondence between the troughs and peaks of these mountain ranges and the troughs and peaks of ocean waves. That these terrestrial and oceanic forms emerge, crest, and decay in different scales of time and size does not affect the pleasure that they provide.
The painted shapes seek also to capture the presence of flowing rivers and breaking waves. About the colors: The colors of the shapes— white, yellow, green, and blue—ally to evoke light and dark.
Like a landscape covered with fresh snow, white, perceived as the absence of color, allows forms to be experienced without distraction.
Black pigments misrepresent the brilliance of darkness. Last year’s total eclipse of the sun made this manifest. The deepest, darkest ultramarine blue better evokes the sunless outside: shade and shadow, the night sky, and the silky dark space of planets, stars, and galaxies. The yellow/green shapes reiterate the white and blue relationship as if seen through a yellow-tinted glass: changing the white to yellow and the blue to green. This infusion gives the shapes vitality. About the two-color shapes: Since beginning to work with river- and stream-based shapes in 1991, a single, monochrome color modulated only by light has provided the pleasure of seeing multiple shades on the shapes’ faceted surfaces. Two or three shapes made from the same mold, enable it to be experienced in other colors.
Starting in 2012, some of the painted shapes pair colors: ultramarine blue with flake white and cadmium yellow light with a mixture of viridian and ultramarine blue. The two colors divide the surface of the shape into equal areas, or into three or five divisions.
The presence of two fields of color in one shape—a sort of mitosis—bifurcates and invigorates the field, bringing a second perspective into play.
Rupert Deese was born in Upland, California in 1952. He received his M.F.A. and B.A. degrees from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He was artist-in-residence at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas. The artist’s work has been shown at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Connecticut; American Academy of Sciences, New York; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock; Art in Embassies Program, United States Department of State (South Korea); The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas; Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento, California; The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York; Reese Bullen Gallery, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California; Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana; Naples Museum of Art, Florida; Nevada Museum of Art, Reno; New York State Museum, Albany; University Art Museum, State University of New York, Binghamton. His work is included in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno.