David Reed: Lives of Paintings

Image Gallery

October 29 - December 9, 2008

Renowned New York abstract painter and Reed College alumnus David Reed returns to the college for a one-person exhibition of paintings created over the last three decades, from 1965 to the immediate present. Entitled Lives of Paintings, this diachronic installation brings together interrelated bodies of David Reed’s work: early gestural landscapes, time-based performative paintings from the 1970s, and large-scale, intensely optical paintings from the last twenty years. 

Wednesday, October 29 at 7:00 pm, Artist Lecture in Vollum Lecture Hall
The renowned abstract painter and Reed College alumnus, class of 1968, will give a lecture on his work, followed by a reception at the Cooley Gallery, which will be open from 12:00—10:00 pm that day. 

The Stephen E. Ostrow Distinguished Visitors in the Arts Program was established by a generous 1988 gift to Reed from longtime friends of the college, Edward and Sue Cooley and John and Betty Gray, in support of art history and its place in the humanities. The mission of the program is to bring to campus creative people who are distinguished in connection with the visual arts and who will provide a forum for conceptual exploration, challenge, and discovery.

On view Wednesday, October 29—Tuesday, December 9
The Cooley Gallery is open every week, Tuesday through Sunday, from 12:00—6:00 pm. Located in the Reed College Library, it is always free and open to the public.

Each body of work illuminates the strategies and nuances of the others, exploring the “lives” of the paintings within the intimate conversational space of the Cooley. To investigate the lives of the paintings as social objects, the Cooley Gallery is publishing an experimental monograph that includes a collection of individual, large-format reproductions of each painting in the exhibition; and the translocational “life story” of each painting is explored through essays and photographs. Designed by Joshua Berger of PLAZM in collaboration with the artist, the monograph includes essays by Jeffrey Kipnis, Lisa Ann Favero, and Reed College Professor Emeritus Charles Rhyne; a conversation with exhibition curator Stephanie Snyder; and a preface by Reed College Professor of Art Michael Knutson.

Completing his 1968 painting thesis at Reed College with Willard (Bill) Midgette, David Reed cites Reed College as the catalyst for his artistic awakening, and the milieu in which he first experienced the intellectual and material rigor of artistic life. Before returning to Reed to complete his degree, David Reed studied painting with Philip Guston and Milton Resnick at the New York Studio School. David Reed has had solo exhibitions at the Max Protetch Gallery in New York since 1976. Large exhibitions of his paintings and video installations traveled to US museums in 1998 and 2005, and to European museums in 1995 and 2001. David Reed has received grants from the NEA, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, and received the Skowhegan Medal for Painting in 2001 and the Ursula Blickle Foundation Art Award in 2002. David Reed initiated and advised the exhibition High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967-75. High Times, Hard Times was curated by Katy Siegel and organized by the ICI, Independent Curators International, New York. Traveling for three years to numerous institutions, the exhibition not only captured a tumultuous period of political and social change, but also reflected the impact of the civil rights struggle, student and anti-war activism, and the beginnings of feminism in the art world.

EXCERPT FROM: Lisa Ann Favero, Words for #320-2
"#320-2, like so many of David’s paintings, revels in passive exposure to the conditions of uncontrolled light and reflections, in proximity to the mundane and extraordinary technological accoutrements of domestic life. When it hung in my living room, a portion of its image was cast onto the TV screen in the late afternoon. The swirling top layer of strokes hungrily absorbed the light emitted as the image writhed over talking heads. At night, the curtains still drawn back, #320-2 reflected onto the windows opposite its place on the wall. The old, wavy panes of rolled glass suspended it between the living room and the evergreen Hemlock tree outside. In that sheer, diaphanous projection, it once appeared in the corner of my eye to be an unfurled obi, the swath of fabric charged in traditional Japanese dress with wrapping the torso of the body.

But the power of #320-2 lies in its active spatial engagement, the way in which it integrates itself with its surround and comes to resonate with the body. The painting openly declares itself a fragment of the larger whole of the space at hand. Most of its forms coalesce off canvas and erupt onto it, each proceeding at its own rate of intensity, the gestural strokes of its dominant lamina shooting across the horizontal field with the greatest speed and force. A relief of magenta, also interjected from beyond the frame, punctuates the canvas from the lower right corner. Like a semi-colon, the colorful remark temporarily pauses the swirling, undulating mass of dark strokes, signaling a shift in the trajectory before its energy compels it to continue out into the room.

The implied movement of the dark strokes both laterally and frontally, along with the way all components exceed the painting’s formal limits, imparts a sense of proliferation, of fecundity and breadth. Such expansiveness is necessarily associated with the conventions of the panorama and the cinematic landscape, but this painting does not divest itself of the boundaries of built space in pursuit of the outdoors. It leaks, pours, streams out of and into enclosed space, circulating around bodies and objects, the trajectories metamorphosing as they progress. The lines of flight might reach the walls, but they radiate elliptically back into the room to hover, squirm, and churn, around the people present. In their sensitivity and responsiveness, they are lines lightyears past the staid, confrontational erectness and parsimony of a Newman zip, for example. And their very physical, effusive involvement with bodies in interior space palpably invigorates thepainting. #320-2 always seems to grow, to speed up—and the electrical currents running through it to multiply—in proportion to the number of people in the room."

—Lisa Ann Favero from the monograph "David Reed: Lives of Paintings" Published by the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, © Reed College, 2008