This work was a giving into the seductiveness of the brushed metal surface. I had included the metal sections in one or two earlier 3-D works, becoming more attracted by results all the time. My preoccupation with a way to show the essence of man, is to represent man at his best. This would be achieved thru the pose it has been an ongoing quest. The sketch where I developed this pose was done with a dried out magic marker on scrap of ripped paper. An inauspicious beginning , for a somewhat imposing fellow. From there I leaped to an oil sketch, the blue-green color was largely determined by the reddish tint the copper sheet. Prussian blue is a complement with enough strength and contrast to stand up to the copper. The fundamental urge to reveal this powerful body was oddly accompanied by the desire to decorate him in a silly clown outfit. I imagined this picture at first with the costume clinging and billowing from powerful limbs. As it evolved in sketch form to canvas ,the Jester began to apply color from his paintbrush directly on to what would be his garment as it spins off the canvas role in the bottom right.
I have encountered people who experienced life vicariously through movies. I will admit to wanting to see something or someone so I manage to create it in a painting. This process started out long ago in far more modest scale as a boy of 16. A visual condition which defines an original work like no other is texture. Sculptural relief really is only a texture scaled up. In ‘Not My Eyes’ as often is true I needed incompatible elements. I wanted you and I to see this supple and beautiful draping pose. I was even willing to paint her in cool turquoise in contrast to primarily warm background with cool complimentary accents. Not allowing you to escape ‘looking’ at her. To make something compelling in the best way is to make it irresistible and morally repugnant simultaneously. Of course the repugnant part is where the denial starts. I was equally committed to the sensuality of the back ground as the pose. To see this painting in person is to be simultaneously caught by its texture/color and sexuality. When I speak of this painting I use the term barroom nude. That does not come close to revealing how I feel about this girl, this fantasy, this picture though. The challenge here, not the only one by any means, was to paint the reclining woman with her legs akimbo retain dignity while providing intrigue for the audience and myself. Let the seduction happen . More like get out of the way.
Art gives the viewers mind what it needs most…distraction. Appeasing the senses with form and color disconnected from reality is the turf of the abstract painter. Yet I believe that every successful painting has an abstraction at its foundation. The decisions one makes along the way is just how much to sublimate the subject. Knowingly supervising, suspending the viewers attention in pure color and with the round sculpted egg forms, revealing the figure second, was my intent. These egg like shapes are the most purely sculptural forms I have used yet in these 3-D works. Composition and mood are established prior to noticing the figure. One eye drops back through the forms all the way to the openings in the painting to the wall behind the picture. That kind of displacement provides momentary disorientation for the intellect, and the ability to use the wall be hind as an internal compositional element. This is one of the special kinds of pleasure a painting can deliver.
The first bass relief painting I had done in a year and the first ever with an extensively abstracted muse. The 3-D forms are full shapes and they perform sculpturally to the same degree they do graphically. Colors are wielded in streams in all directions traversing the Oxide yellow (feels like gold) background and Prussian blue body. The color has tastes; licorice, vanilla and juju ruby red, ginger drops. Like one with a with sweet tooth that has just discovered an x-tra large box of M&M’s and is determined to try and satisfy the craving by trying every hue. The background figure and purple pods beneath her knees are painted in the utterly flat paint, devoid of gloss, rendering a velvet quality. The strands of color criss-crossing the matt rectangle conversely are maximum gloss to intensify vividness by contrast. The difference between flat and textured gloss is palpable when one stands in front of the picture. These braids of sweetly tinctured hues are mixed with sand to increase their palatable sensory dimension. I was full of anticipation with the pose, its wide boxy layout promised sufficient negative spaces for an aggressive popping out of 3-D form. If substituting the hour glass shape with a boxy , curveless design portends a less than feminine result,I had the antidote: an endearing coquettish expression, contrasting no apparent glamour in the rectilinear body. Her haughty little friend with feathers simpers to the left with matching conceit.
I have a belief that when presenting a human form the facial expression is what the audience seizes upon last and relies upon most when extracting meaning. I suppose we are conditioned to do this by unrelenting stream of manipulation from modern media. Morning til night, the visual appeals of the computer, TV, cinema, magazines and billboard;buy, try, sympathize ,envy or detest. The facial expression brought me some satisfaction as it graced the muse with sweetness and vulnerability. This an intended contrast to the flat, minimally configured painterly limbs.One verifies the message through body language but ultimately consults the smile, pout, grimace of the mask for certainty we got the message right. The venerable history of figurative painting and photography required that the subject sat motionless for hours, days ,weeks to render likeness, consequently often devoid of spontaneous emotion to accommodate accuracy(or beheading by an insulted king). In post modern works, artists seek to gain distinction from pop media forms by avoiding and if not obliterating facial expression unless ironic. In “Girl with Curious Flower”, innocence supplants irony. I do not see this as precluding the traditions of paint handling from which I have learned classic to expressionism; Canaletto to DeKooning.The flower itself rendered realistically for emphasis in contrast to the body. Symbolically the flower lends the potential for naughtiness to her angelic smile and beguiling eyes.
Paintings are a diary of an artist’s life. This was the last picture I painted before a fall. There are events in ones life that destroy you a little. Not unlike the towns tallest tree brought down by lightning, no one could believe it possible, least of all the tree.
An artist benefits immeasurably from the potency of an intact ego, more essential than paint, brush and canvas. The notion of indestructibility, a chimera as it turns out.
The muse at hand, a sturdy sculptural form, a construct of my former illusion. There is no doubt in her sanguine expression as she gazes into a mirror unseen and prepares for the evening ahead. The space resulting from her arms framing her head and elbow pivoting on her knee, create a passage for the background color to enter and flow throughout the picture. Her beau colic gaze is satisfied by her muliebral reflection in the cheval glass not seen. This contentedness produces a smile which the picture evolves around. So sweet is her delight as she beholds her own visage. The behemoth unfeminine hand( required to span the distance from wrist to the part of her hair)is adequately countervailed by the felicity of her expression. In ‘Parting’ no tract of paint is left unfettered. Each precinct of color is layered with tonal and hue fluctuations, textured sand and grit ,particularly the whitish body. The net effect ? it is not really white. The slight tonalities under and over the white include varying light values of every other hue in the picture inviting an interdependence throughout. I remember how I felt the night I finished this picture. I am wondering if I will ever feel that way again.
A cacophony of bells rang throughout the execution of ‘Waiting’. I felt a certainty and a wild anticipation from the tenor of the sketch. Color relationships revealed themselves immediately after the transparent alto lime was thinly applied over the staccato sand-grit sailcloth .The subordinate chorus of pale blue and forest green chimed in supportively and provided middle tones for the essential bass note; dark Ultramarine Blue-violet dress and shoes. The cadmium red light fluted along their edges retaining wet spontaneity. I was prepared to back off at anytime while assembling this full orchestra of color in the event that the melody got lost, but it remained clear, by virtue of uncompromised body language. The decision to eliminate the left leg indicates the extent to which I require every part to contribute to the score or be gone. A painting, always performance, has its own potential which becomes apparent in the first movement. The conductor should first seek to define, try to fulfill and not exceed that potential. The goal; reach the crescendo with a clear statement and leave the audience wanting more. The amplitude of color is possible because the muse’s comportment is muscular and imposing. You walk in the joint and spot the dy-no-mite looker, with tons of body language says: “Where the hell is HE!!…but while I’m sitting here waiting…aint I cute?.. !” After some deliberation I nixed the poodle and the teensy little handbag and waited for the other shoe to drop, it did (and they were Italian!). Not dreadfully girthed as Botero or towering as Giacometti bronze, she was perched upon the bar stool flaunting a take no prisoners chassis that demands to be noticed, pencil thin waist and firm deltoids. Finally, I allotted a parting delicacy to her facial countenance. Simulacrum eyes and resupine neck, proffer the true cipher of her longing for recognition.
I am a student of painting and always will be. I am not afraid of exploration and then change, I don’t particularly believe in specialization for an artist. As a pre-teen wandering the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago I copied and learned from the European impressionists, eventually discovered the anxious pop objects of the American School. Through Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, I discovered Marcel Duchamp. Via Marcel,entered the Dadaists/Surrealists doorway and I encountered there European written Philosophy; Antonin Artaud, Breton, Sartre, Freud, Nietchze. European literature opened my mind like never before. At 16 years, after Saturday morning classes I was invited into The College of the Art Institute of Chicago on scholarship.( summer of 1968 ,the democratic convention ,Chicago was burning and bleeding just outside in Grant Park) I was taught to draw freehand, via old classic techniques. These were rigorous sessions, and the teachers were demanding and critical. Old world Professors who insisted there is no other way and did not give a damn about a student having his own style, they gave no quarter to an original approach. It was expected you were developing personal stylistic proclivities and a mental life of your own; these had little to do with accurately proportioning the human figure. You were there to learn how to draw and tone form (sadly this approach to teaching studio art is all but vanished). Color has always been instinctive to me. I was in touch with my own way from a very early age and had produced dozens of paintings before stepping foot in a museum or a class. I seem to have been born with it and when My father brought paintings home from Paris(Left Bank )and Rome I knew what I was going to do with my life, much to his astonishment. It is astounding what a single morsel of stimuli can do to a young mind. The impact has lasted to this day. I was launched by those paintings mannered after Degas ,VanGogh and the local hero Buffet (far from great paintings but seldom do I encounter a painting devoid of quality).What I had by birthright was awoken could not be impeded or taken away. I did not have to defend it or insist on it, it was power and it protected me from the uncertainties apparent in my peers. I felt anything was possible. Art was a vast uncharted continent and I was given a Range Rover at birth. Onward, I began to realize, I was shifting. I was learning to draw and paint from the other cerebral hemisphere, the objective one. This was layered over my native approach. Whether the ambience was chiaroscuro (light to dark) ,photo realism (flat lit detail) or abstraction, I possessed an energy and facility which amazed even me. Since then I have produced more than a thousand drawings, painting and sculptures and worked at considerable depth in these traditions and blends of their substrata. I spent so many years referred to as “unique and new” by teachers, friends eventually newspapers, magazines and others that I learned there was little advantage being ahead of your time. I have always felt there a kinship in the paint handling and light of Eduardo Manet and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio although 200 years apart, I learned from them both. There are numerous exemplary works to be found in ROBERTMANGO.com(see “Vessels”,” Jewel of the Adriatic”). This brings us back to “In the Garden”, My innocent muse stops to water the sunflowers while bathing. Ok I am a romantic and this picture suggest a naiveté’ which is real to me. My alternate reality is not film or television; it is the history of painting. I have found the best historical insights into the psyche of those who inhabited previous centuries is depicted most trustfully on canvas. The artist or culture that looses its naiveté may be doomed. We remain children in the Garden… of Eden.
Staring at the blank canvas, I held in my minds eye a conjured image; a woman laughing at herself… playing a toy piano. Simultaneously strokes of surrounding energy appeared (later applied in thick textural color with widely swinging strokes of a 12 inch bakers icing application tool).When I started the sketch she got younger and the piano became an instrument of dynamic expression. In the end as in the beginning a painting is requires puissant accord of abstract and recognizable forms. The enveloping willingness of the piano lid to accept her callipered legs is design element that the emitted energies circumnavigate and use as structure. A medium for sonorant inspiration, her eyes are closed accessing an internal melody. The play of coils and strings, the 88 black & white keys allowed a painterly caprice this artist enjoyed immensely. The decision of ‘which hues to use’ was cast by the oxide yellow background. This raw pigment, a ground up chunky powder borrowed from the great alluvium store, kept in an old fashion glass pharmacy bottle on my highest dusty shelf. Once dissolved the viscous potion conveys a pleasure which is uniquely yellow but has the calming effect of an earth tone, holding down the potentially quarrelsome red and blue and completing the triad. Before long I was humming Buddy Holly, poising her hands at the top of their arc and all 10 fingers momentarily hovering over a major key. I needed enough human detail to balance the preponderance of purely abstract swatches. Taking the time to proportion fingers is a task we unconsciously want the figurative artist to undertake (a condign body part to all pianists accepting possibly Jerry Lee Lewis who did rather well with his feet). Dropping out the piano bench, was a deletion made in behalf of a mid-air performance.
A woman came through my studio doors very excited after seeing “Never Missed” through my window. She said she could personally relate to the woman in the painting because the men she had kissed before would “never be missed”. I was inclined to let her retain her interpretation. The interpretation I intended was somewhat different, in fact quite contrary. “Never Missed “is a claim which can be made by the woman depicted in the picture. Her faultless precision is indisputable. The title’s assertion is upheld by many happy recipients; her ability deftly landing a kiss blown from her palm across the room is legendary.
At times I find myself thinking of the rectangle of a painting as dramatic stage. Theatrical set elements of costume, props and lighting are important in both mediums. The main and supporting characters assume the stage and they definitely have a script. Please indulge for the moment that in “La Performance” the bored ‘but playing along with it’ white doggie on the bed is not the star. As in theater you never know who will steal the show, the audience however is the fortunate voyeur, glimpsing the secret yearnings of the muse, performing alone in her bedroom. Once committed to the ‘set’, I seized upon features useful in co-opping the stage back into the domain of painting and sculpture. The yellow wall paper became a surface to display an abstract passage. I disassembled and reconstructed an actual brass bed which lends visual credulity of scale, to the thick impasto of ultramarine blue light swirls on the wall paper. Important to remember when mixing mediums in the end, it is a painting! Thus it will turn on sustaining visual interest and the organization of the fundamental elements; color, composition, handling of the oil paint. Ultimately these should support the rendered human condition, preferably via ole fashioned method acting approach; pose and facial expression. Repore’ between the considerable 3-D relief and her delicate facial features became crucial. On one hand I’m asking the audience to enjoy me pushing quite a bit of material in, out & around a large picture plain, on the other to empathetically accept her torment represented in a small subtle area of mascara ,hair color and a far away look. The actress is rehearsing (hopefully) for the arrival of the leading man.
A strong case is made here for painting a picture strait through in one session, without correction or addition. The two primary forces at work , as in many painterly outings; expression and description. The former, a painters need to get it out and lay it down. Pure expression; the crucible of the unknown, unconscious channeling, welcome accidents, a vehicle of change and movement. One may approach the easel with uncontrollable need ,an intensity which can manifest genius, or unruly results. Description, when carefully employed a faculty that conveys the illusion of reality. A many paged book of techniques and tricks with chapters including light, shadow, proportion and contour. Most post painters move between these two polarities usually declaring an allegiance, claiming the distinction of a purer essence for one or the other. Such has been the timber of considerable published art criticism and art school lines drawn in the sand. A prolonged hiatus preceded this picture, my need was considerable .Newness if not uncertainty counseled caution, barely taming the eagerness of one returning. Doubt, an excellent antidote for arrogance, was standing by, beginning to snicker until I blended the raw umber into the cerulean blue in the background North to South. I felt immediately the Burgundy and Titanium Yellow were going to prevail. The mixing of colors and the proportioning of the muse on the Burgundy Chaise happened quickly accompanied by the appeasement of hunger satiated. The work began early in the morning with Café’ de cocoa and a stick charcoal scratching and breaking over primed gray cloth. The work ended a hard day’s night later with wine glass in one hand a willowy narrow paint brush in the other, lining in red the inviting yellow woman. I proceeded joyfully, at times methodically and without stopping.
A thousand girls ,a thousand thrills’….. So sang Jim Morrison and The Doors in 1967 in a song “The Crystal Ship”. In the early outings with this body of work, showing different moods of the illusive muse, never repeating the format, the pose, the color composition were my criterion. To induce diversity, I tapped a lifetime of appreciation for women. Like other men I have been subject to their provocation. The belief that every woman has a uniqueness which makes her a candidate for portrayal keeps me wide eyed. There are few woman and fewer situations they are in, that I fail to see beauty and feel empathy. Both poses on this page provide the voyeur visual access and opportunity. One might feel that she is unaware, unguarded, in an unseen moment,vanquished to an archipelago of futile satiation. In “End of the Evening”, notwithstanding the tipsy toast, her defiant salute to oblivion is a deference afforded by a blotto’d awareness to an unkind world of onlookers. I intended an appreciable gratification for an unblinking audience upon this being, at once attractive and self destructive. Our concern somewhat mitigated by her athletically toned limbs and limber ski-lift adaptation of a chair. The image evokes paternal concern in some or an appraisal of her viability in others. After all, she is yours and you have plans for her yet this evening or… this is your daughter, sister, old girlfriend and she is in a vulnerable spot. I imagined her visage while leaning back, propped up on one elbow, sketch book in one hand, graphite in the other, observing an empty Corbusier chair. A genuine hallucination emerged in an atmosphere of hellish burgundy smoke. A yellow haired muse took shape, barely visible, wandering in a no exit canyon of her own pernicious habits.
I see therefore I am. Possession is achieved first with the eyes and seldom more satisfying: credo of the voyeur. Observation fertilizes the unconscious. The next step inward, behold the phantasm in your mind, attempt to recapture it on canvas; the longing of many but task of the artist. When you work from imagination best to ignore features that delay arriving at the essence of a fleeting dream. Her skin, pose, incorporeal color, all proffer the feeling of a ghostly nocturnal suit, with little detail to import a sense of reality. The absence of skeletal understructure or costume elements (button, cuffs, lapels) tell of woolgathering. The water fall is simplified, reduced to an uneven wavy grid also suggesting her hair. Can you imagine a place in time when a woman could be seen washing her hair at a stream or waterfall, a not be a particularly noteworthy occurrence..? The simplest acts of existence hold the greatest enchantment. For me these express our transient earthling status best. The two pictures facing on this page were conceived and completed in the same month. The solidity of “Parting Her Hair” freed me, enough to paint “Washing Her Hair” as willowy and wispy.
I have looked into the hole in the ground for many months . Filling the void with something hopeful and loving is what my minds conjured when I look there. A bed of clouds moves in . The ethereal cloud substance tenderly supports and elevates the lovers above the recent past and its painful memory.The bedroom becomes the their beloved NYC. The walls are removed the bedroom are the city. Their soft bed of clouds contrast the abrasive brick and mortar, steel and glass. I work from a particular vision ,a hallucination if you like, I always have.I starred at this large blank canvas for a week. When I know what I’m going to paint I’ll do how ever many sketches necessary to feel confident before starting.The elements are painted realistic but the vision is a fantasy. This painting required numerous architectural sketches and the Double Helix in the sky too. I wanted uplifting architecture to redefine the downtown skyline. Fortunately the LMDC, NYC and NY State officials wanted it too. The 2 largest structures nearest the viewer, THE FREEDOM TOWERS and The 80 South St. Tower were in conceptual stages when I imagined this painting. In May ’04 when I started seeing this painting in my minds eye the only designs available for these bld.’s were the finalists sketches on the cover of N.Y. POST. Websites had little and there still are no blu-prints in the public domain for these buildings. At length I managed to get a fairly clear idea as to what Mr. Liberskind and Santiago Calatrava had in mind for the two main structures in the foreground. It was somewhat of a challenge to paint the buildings accurately before they are built. Time will tell over the next several years how well I have accurately imagined there appearance. Everyone downtown eventually spends an evening in the bar @ City Hall. It is an exceptional honor for me to have ‘Fallen Towers’ exhibited in CITY HALL. Elisha and Henry Meer are gracious friends and neighbors. They share with me an optimism about the future that is expressed in this picture. I have felt for many years that City Hall is the quintessential downtown Manhattan place. There is a vibe which is what downtown is and feels like to me readily found there. I am proud and happy to have this painting on the magnificent brick wall opposite the bar. Fallen Towers” describes and awaits the future in a context of love and a vision of tranquility