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reed magazine logoAutumn 2008
Animal Estates Plan

David Reed and Bill Midgette







Great joy in teaching comes not just from interacting with students during their college years but from following students’ lives as they unfold. In some cases teachers and former students even work together on joint projects, as colleagues. In 1975, the second of five years during which I directed the college’s art exhibition program, I had the pleasure of working with David on the first exhibition of his work away from the East Coast. We put together 14 paintings from the previous two years, during which his work had become recognized as a highly original contribution to contemporary painting, recasting the art of the immediate past in a new, convincing form. The most adventurous of the paintings in this exhibition can now be seen to have opened the way to the luxurious flowering of his mature art (see

The flavor of those early years in New York has been captured for the first time in a recent exhibition and catalogue, High Times, Hard Times, New York Painting 1967–1975, curated by Katy Siegel and organized by the Independent Curators International. David helped organize this exhibition and wrote a first-hand account for the catalogue, describing the lives of New York artists on the streets and in the studios during that decade.

Seen in relation to the spectacular paintings of his now three-decade career, #29 appears only a beginning, but it is a fully realized work of art, a magical painting, and an indication of the standards to which David has held himself throughout his career. For me, it also provides a marker against which to set each new body of work as David so wondrously expands his art and explores new relationships with the contemporary world.

I can still see #29 in that 1975 exhibition, beautifully lit by natural light in the lounge of the much-loved Faculty Office Building, where our art exhibitions were held. Unlike most museums and galleries, where the light is often flat and unchanging, the light in the FOB Gallery constantly changed, illuminating the paintings in different ways. These were paintings to be lived with, seen not as pictures but as physical objects in light and space.

My thoughts about David hover around this early painting. It will forever bring back for me the young artist, securely finding himself in the world. Even now, with #29 temporarily on loan and its place on the wall vacant, the painting floats there, soon to return enriched with new associations, new meanings.

Charles Rhyne is professor of art history, emeritus, at Reed College.


reed magazine logoAutumn 2008