Big bold and deep
Like firesides warming several living rooms, or suns shining through windows, the big, bold but extraordinarily deep and complex painterly nudes of the late Jon Schueler glowed down at the well dressed crowd at Berry Campbell last night in ways which warmed the heart as well as the mind, bringing renewed attention to an exceptional artist whose place in the first rank has long been assured by his quietly penetrating evocations of Scottish skies which in mood and abstracted form seem to stretch forever beyond the immediate, and in this new Centennial exhibition of his rarely seen physical closeups of his female models his pursuit of the internal seems equally exploratory well past the surface drama of women’s bodies in blatantly frontal poses in which nothing is held back or obscured by anything but the forceful energy of his brush, and the variety of his compounded colors and tonal landscapes which slowly unfold nested emotional meaning to the attentive observer, all stretching forward in line with his theme of carrying them toward the same Scottish skies, and the flow of sophisticated viewers attracted by attention grabbing glimpses of these exciting canvases through the glass of this young but prominent street front gallery on Chelsea’s art hub of 24th Street built to a peak of crowding that paid deserved tribute to an artist whose reputation this year has been spreading far beyond appreciative connoisseurs, joining in what seems to be a gathering swing of the pendulum of attention back from the abstract to the human experience taking place in Manhattan galleries and museums and carried forward this year with exhibitions such as the stunning Max Beckmann at the Met.
JON SCHUELER (1916-1992)
October 17, 2016:
The 2016 Schueler Centennial Year will culminate with:
Jon Schueler: Women in the Sky (1960’s)
530 West 24th Street, New York, NY 10011
November 17 to December 23, 2016
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 17, 6 to 8pm.
Contact: Christine Berry or Martha Campbell (212) 924-2178, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Schueler’s work which incorporates the human form– or the memory of the body in all its mysteries — has rarely been seen since 1967, and never in any depth in New York. The exhibition at Berry Campbell of 18 oils and 8 works on paper will now bring this area of his work to the fore.Since his student days at the California School of Fine Art the figure has been present in Jon Schueler’s thinking and is prominent in the works on paper. At times, in New York, he joined informal groups of artists who shared the expense of models for drawing sessions in their own studios.
Then in August of 1962 he decided to incorporate the figure, and specifically the woman into his oils. He underscores the significance of his choice in his autobiographical writings of that year:
In October 1962 Schueler moved into 901 Broadway at 20th Street, with 15′ high ceilings– a much larger space than his previous studios on East 12th in New York. Between 1963 and 1967 he drew on girlfriends and paid models, friends and acquaintances to produce his most extensive group of “Woman in the Sky” paintings and works on paper. His own words reveal the importance of this development for both present and future work, whether the figure remained visible or not:
“There are two things I want to paint about and two things I want to write about — Nature and Woman….Now I realize that Woman is in New York, and I can paint about that with as much passion as I painted about the sky in Scotland. I’ll bring the two together.” (The Sound of Sleat: A Painter’s Life, Picador USA, 1999, p. 135.)
“The woman was naked. She was lying with her head back. She was in an attitude of love or an attitude of birth. She was sensual and passionate. Her legs were spread. She was larger than life…. My intention was to gradually push her into the sky so that figuration would disappear. This I did, so that by 1967 one could possibly still feel the sensuality of the woman though the figuration was no longer evident. And for some reason, in a very profound sense, she made me feel the architecture of a painting.” (The Sound of Sleat, pp.318-319.)
The works on paper in pen and ink, charcoal, graphite or crayon convey the delight of exploring the single body, or the bodies of two women together, and occasionally a man is included. These are not studies for the paintings though their themes and preoccupations are similar: a fierce attention to the line and gesture and an acute sensitivity to the materiality of the medium. As in the oils, portraiture of a particular model is subordinated to the larger concern for mood and the drama of the forms.