John Newman Seeks the Emotionally Charged in Wild Sculptures and Drawings
“I have said in the past that my work is about something between sex and science. Somehow this came from thinking about the entanglement that reductivism got us into. In the early ’70s there was a lot of talk about making art that disappears. About reaching the zero degree! After so many examples of zero-degree art making I began thinking, “What’s on the other side of zero?” The other side of zero is irrational numbers, negative numbers, Alice’s whacky world, the unconscious, quantum mechanics and probability, and even wilder as-yet undiscoverable things. And the whole idea of what to do after the zero degree is reached—what is on the other side of the mirror—in a sense has always been the basic premise of my work.” –An interview with John Newman, Brooklyn Rail John Newman received his Masters of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Art and his Bachelors of Arts from Oberlin College. John’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States and Europe. He been awarded many prestigious grants, residencies, and awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and Yaddo. Newman’s work can be found in many major public and private collections including the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, The Brooklyn Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Hood Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery.
Inspired by travels to Japan, Africa, and especially India, John Newman’s small and colorful abstract sculptures conjure images of fantastical sea creatures and shells with traces of assemblage, ceramics, and even jewelry. The wide range of materials the works encompass, from glass to tulle to stones, lends them a coarse texture, while their witty titles imbue a sense of playfulness. Newman is known for marrying elements of contemporary art with classical traditions and emotional content, a style born out of musings prompted by his mother’s death. “How can I make something that can bridge both the intellectually engaged formal rigor,” he asks, “and my desire to embrace and elicit an emotion without irony or without merely depending upon art historical precedence, to tackle something that [is] real?”
American, b. 1952, Flushing, New York, based in New York, New York