Artist Statement / THE LAST HURRAH: NEW PAINTINGS & DRAWINGS BY DAN HOWARD
This will be my last major exhibition of new art work (I promise); my body and the calendar are indicators pointing to this conclusion. At any rate, the gallery director has asked me to provide some pertinent remarks concerning the whys and wherefores of the works in this showcase. So here goes.
I thought it appropriate to consider devoting myself to issues in these paintings that relate as strongly and decisively to artistic matters with which I have been dealing, both in a shorter time frame as well as those that have been the bedrock of my professional career for a very long time. AS to the works on view in this exhibition, the most sweeping generalization to be made is that my long-term preoccupation with the melding of representational and abstract imagery is pervasively in evidence. The term ‘abstract’ for me means the rearrangement, distortion and purposeful selection of elements making up an entity, to the point that the entity now has a presence relatively unique to the surface at hand. In other words, I’m trying to make something unpredictable out of the predictable.
An example: in the group of four paintings titled Cloudscape/Summer Nebraska the label merely provides a handle for the viewer as to the basic source of the imagery at my disposal. My efforts were directed toward conveying some of the varied colors and patterns a viewer might associate with cloud images. However, my attention was focused on the composition, the design of those shapes, regardless of the connection they might have with “clouds.” All the while, my overriding interest in dealing with any and all imagery is to construct an interesting painting – the brushwork, texture and application of the oil medium on a tangible surface.
Another feature in evidence with this showing is my continued referencing to artists of the past, most of whom having influenced and affected me and my artistic endeavors. This predilection dates back to the early 1960’s, when I composed a painting based on Rembrandt’s masterpiece Night Watch (which should have been labeled ‘Day Watch’ after a contemporary cleaning of the surface!). In the present exhibit, you will find references to artists as diverse as Peter Paul Rubens, Claude Monet, Aaron Kuriloff and Cy Twombly. Additional artists I found attachments to in recent months were Giotto, Bernini, Franz Kline and again Rembrandt; they were omitted due to space limitations. In each instance, I have identified elements in those artists’ works which struck responsive chords with me and gave me challenges to make something personal and meaningful out of those references.
Still another aspect revealed in the shown works is a continuing monochromatic basis for many of the paintings, wherein I am emphasizing one color to the exclusion of most others. It’s a direction I have followed for a long time, going back to my third and final year in graduate school at the University of Iowa in 1958. I was invited to design the cover for a nationally-distributed periodical and hit on the idea of a single-color painting design; I’ve worked with that concept ever since. I like to think it’s a fairly unique treatment of imagery; the public and private collections I’ve been privileged to be represented in seem to substantiate my continued semi-concentration in that direction.
Some final thoughts: this artistic career has been a wonderful ride with some pitfalls along the way, but no profession is without misgivings and mistakes. Overall, I wouldn’t have taken a different path, certainly not with an amazing better half supporting my efforts every step of the way.
– Dan Howard