April 11 – June 1, 2008; Reception: April 10, 2008, 5-7 p.m.
Michael Rich, The Unfolding, 2002, Oil on wax on canvas, 72″ x 62″
Newport Art Museum to present “To the Sea: Recent Paintings by Michael Rich”
Drawing on his recent stay in Italy, as well as his childhood summers on Nantucket Island, Michael Rich will exhibit his series of intimately-experienced landscapes this spring at the Newport Art Museum. In this body of work, Rich revitalizes a vocabulary of abstract forms and expressions in order to recapture the vividness of nature, as the artist has lived it. Rich¹s apparently abstract paintings, which bear a family resemblance to the abstraction of Helen Frankenthaler and others, are built upon childhood memories and adult observation of specific places on Nantucket and, more recently, central Italy. He seeks to capture both the special quality of a place, but also the intangible richness of repeated, life-long experience of a place in time. Rich¹s landscapes, in the artist’s words, ³stand on the frontier of a rediscovery of the experience of the landscape in American art. They will be on exhibition at the Newport Art Museum from April 11-June 1, 2008.
Each of Rich’s canvases is a complex arrangement of abstract forms and painterly passages framed in a structured mental architecture evocative of memory and experience. In Spring Sky, one may feel free to read into the blue and white patches on canvas a certain reference to clouds, but variations of yellow and orange blur the boundary of the literal and suggest that one is viewing a memory of repeated walks or viewings. In The Unfolding, one may be forgiven for ³seeing² a sunset in the broad swathes of orange and red on canvas, and yet the muscular painterliness and vigorous formal structure of the work emit the power of a whole summer¹s worth of sunsets.
Rich practices yoga and meditation and says the discipline and effort required to achieve mental calm have carried over into his art. He avoids premeditation in his work, but paints daily, routinely, in a disciplined way that also seeks to get ever deeper into a quiet place in the mind. Like the Chinese painters whom he admires, Rich deftly captures the “chi” of natural energies in works such as Tuscania Drawings. He daringly stacks vertical space and suggests vanishing points beyond vanishing points, in a compositional strategy also informed by the Chinese masters, as well as recent work by the contemporary artist Brice Marden.
Rich’s current work is deeply imbued by lifelong engagement with the extreme and foggy temperament of Nantucket Island. Time spent on a recent sabbatical in Central Italy further influences some of the newer paintings on view. Rich does not paint en plein air; instead, he attempts to put his feelings on canvas, in his studio, only after he has encountered nature on his own, time and again. Rich says, “The cultivation of the space within a painting is not unlike the cultivation of a garden.” Michael Rich received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, studied at the University of Georgia Studies Abroad Program, Cortona Italy, and received his MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He lives and works in Providence, R.I., and is associate professor of Art and Visual Arts Program Coordinator at Roger Williams University, Bristol, R.I. Rich is represented by Adler & Co., San Francisco, and the George Billis Gallery, New York and Los Angeles.
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To the Sea: Recent Paintings by Michael Rich
Newport Art Museum
A series of abstract landscape paintings based on the artist¹s experiences on Nantucket Island and in Italy. Reception at the Museum, Thursday April 10, 5-7 p.m.
Newport Art Museum
76 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, Rhode Island
Admission: $6 Adults, $5 Seniors, $4 Children
Daily: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday: Noon – 5 p.m.