On April 24 November’s Guest an exhibition of new oil paintings by Michael Gregory, opens at Nancy Hoffman Gallery and continues through June 8. Since 2000 Gregory has focused on the American iconic landscape. A sense of loneliness pervades his paintings, which may include a barn or farm community, a silo, telephone poles, fences, fields of hay, cloud or star-filled skies. His point of departure is love of the land, particularly the West that John Steinbeck described in his books. The artist does not seek a photoreal representation of the land and sky; each painting in oil on canvas is a reimagined vision of what he has seen as he drives through vast stretches of the land and skyscape.
For the first time the artist has incorporated his experience of living on the East Coast where he has spent the past year in the Hudson River Valley. The colors of the seasons are different from the West Coast; the topography and light are different. There is a celebration of autumn colors; bright snow is on the ground. Barns of rainbow hues appear for the first time in the artist’s work. Most of the paintings embrace color in a poetic, subtle and rich fashion. Gone are the mountains of the artist’s last exhibition, replaced by big clear skies of blue and grey, with the occasional cloud floating through.
While the apparent subject of the work is “the landscape,” these are not simple landscapes and not simply the landscape qua landscape. This is a terrain where space seems infinite, where light can shine in the sky uninterrupted by the detritus of civilization. These are paintings harking back to another time, yet achingly contemporary. Pared to the essence of structure, a barn sets the stage for mood, time and place, and arrests one’s eye as one views the fields and trees and skies. The poetry in the paintings is palpable; the sense of memory is undeniable. The show’s title is inspired by a Robert Frost poem, another nod to the artist’s new residence on the East Coast. These are American paintings filled with Lewis and Clark’s commitment to the future, and to the preservation of a landscape unique in the world. Gregory has written: “In May of 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark departed from Saint Louis, Missouri to map the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase and search for what was then a centuries’ old quest for a passage across the interior to the Pacific Ocean. Their journey was a nation’s commitment to the future. “This urge for exploration and discovery is hardwired in our genes, from our earliest trek out of Africa to our voyage into space. It is an impulse that recurs with each generation. What continues to amaze me in a formal way is the contrast of man-made structures to the natural environment and how they fit seamlessly into their setting, ghostly sentinels to man’s hubris.
“ These paintings are not specific to actual place; they are composite reminders of where we’ve been. The meditative quality of driving long distances is recreated in the studio, with its attendant solitude and silence. Our response to landscape is visceral. Every sunrise is miraculous and novel.” One cannot help but feel what Gregory has stated when looking at these glowing works, that indeed, “every sunrise is miraculous and novel,” and every wisp of fog a fleeting moment of poetry.
The artist’s work has been shown at The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, Denver; Boise Art Museum, Idaho; Boulder Center for the Visual Arts, Colorado; The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland; Center for the Arts, Vero Beach, Florida; Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science, Indiana; Fine Arts Center Galleries, University of Rhode Island, Kingston; The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California; Flint Institute of Arts, Michigan; Florida International University, Miami; Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, Colorado; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Maier Museum of Art, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, Lynchburg, Virginia; Richmond Art Center, California; San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, California; San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, California; San Mateo Arts Council, California; Selby Gallery, Ringling School of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida; The Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
His work is included in the collections of the Boise Art Museum, Idaho; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; Denver Art Museum, Colorado; Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science, Indiana; San Jose Museum of Art, California, and numerous private collections.
He was Martha and Merritt deJong Memorial Artist-in-Residence, Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science, Indiana in 2003.
Michael Gregory was born in Los Angeles in 1955. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. He resides in Bolinas, California, and Rhinebeck, New York with his wife.