Born and raised inBrooklyn, NY, I became irresistibly drawn into the sheer beauty of the Hudson Valley, where I eventually came to live in the 1970’s.
Many are drawn to the rolling hills, the orderly segmented fields, the colorful crop rows, the dramatic mountain views and the changes of the seasons. This landscape drew me in and became my muse and ultimately my subject matter.
The painters of the Hudson River School, the preeminent American art movement of the 19th century, immortalized the land and riverscapes that surround my home for miles. It was natural that, as I was drawn to landscape painting, I would also use this world as imagery for many of my paintings. But the question was: how to interact with this landscape today, as a 21st century artist? What concerns should I bring to this pastoral world that would both acknowledge past landscape tradition and simultaneously radically reinvent that tradition?
The great landscape painters of the past, amongst them Turner, the Impressionists and the Hudson River School, painted extraordinary, even sublime, images. These are much in demand by museums today, but in the contemporary art world landscape painting is not much appreciated. It is associated with the commerce-driven, facile, and imitative paintings found in provincial galleries everywhere. Plenty of competent enough painters repeat traditional conventions and make pleasant enough pictures, but that approach is of no interest to me. I do not want my landscapes to be used as mere escapism or just decoration; why not just look out a window? I want my pictures to require the observer to engage, spend time and keep making discoveries. My obsession has been to find my own vision and use the artistic vocabulary and tools of the 21st century to paint landscapes as they have never been seen before.
I began my enquiry by listing the elements of a landscape: space, light, perspective, both atmospheric and linear, texture, focal points, scale, color, and surface as well as weather effects and natural and manmade elements.
By questioning and defying what generations of artists had adhered to, my landscapes would be dynamic above all, that is, in constant motion. How do you create the illusion of movement on a flat, static, two-dimensional surface? That question has been a consistent aesthetic and technical concern throughout my painting career.
At first I decided to animate animals across the landscape, and later I attempted to do the same with the landscape itself. One way to create the sense of movement was with the limbs of the animals, multiplied, overlapped, stretched and woven into the background. Eventually I found a way to create movement in buildings and other seemingly static structures as well.
In order to achieve this I decided to explore the implications of my analysis of landscape. I made objects both solid and transparent. The viewer sees the image simultaneously moving past an object and sees the object through it. This merges the images on the surface of the canvas. The effect is to simultaneously shatter the image and the light that illuminates it, breaking it up into many planes of color in a way the Cubists might have understood. At times the image is evenkaleidoscopically fractured and rearranged.
I also chose to wrestle with the idea of time, wanting the viewer to perceive the past, present and future simultaneously. In order to achieve an even more dynamic surface, light originates from different sources rather than the traditional one, as do perspective or points of view. Buildings and fields warp and tilt in many different directions. Lines of force emanate from various sources and cross over areas to create energy and directionality, forcing the viewer’s eye to observe certain events within the canvas.
After painting well over a hundred pictures based on these criteria, I discovered that many of my concerns, particularly dynamism and time, were also those of the Futurists. The Italian painters and, a bit later, the Russians, and even a few American artists, created paintings concerned with some of the same ideas as mine. The Italian Futurists, Boccioni, Severini, Balla, Marinetti and others engaged with some of these aesthetic ideas, but they included fascist and nationalistic ideologies that are abhorrent to me. The movement spread to Russia where a Cubist-inspired Futurism took hold. Malevitch, in pictures like the” Knife Grinder”, and Filonov, in “Composition and Formula for Spring”, were leaders of the movement and founders of Modernism in Russia.
In my youth, many of Filonov’s ideas were transmitted to me by my teacher and uncle, Boris Margo, who was a student of his in Russia. Only recently, thanks to the internet, I was able to take a long look at Filonov’s major painting, all of which are in Russian collections. I discovered a sort of “parallel play”, not in subject matter but in formal concerns. Thus, in some ways I represent the third generation interacting with the Russian Avant Garde of the early 20th Century. At least one American painter, Joseph Stella, clearly wrestled with this movement, to create his masterwork, “Coney Island” where he rejected the romanticizing of violence of Italian Futurism and instead created a playful, dynamic and joyful painting of what was then America’s favorite resort.
To create my images I at times use up-to-date technologies. Sometimes I scan into a computer previously completed drawings, pastels and paintings. There I am able to collage, merge, overlap, distort, torque and fuse my ideas into a coherent image. Then, as I paint, I work to perfect the desired light, form and color to create the final image.
In the finished painting there is much to discover, as the eye is guided around in what has become an imagined, not literal, world of the landscape. One is called to spend time and pay close attention, to decipher and contemplate. As with all my work, the surface and the formal elements are very important, but they also serve meaning. I create with the intention to provoke thought, evoke memories and stir the emotions.
MFA/Painting and Printmaking, Cornell University, 1965
BFA/Painting and Printmaking, University of Illinois, 1963
Additional Professional Training
Atelier Clot – Bramson, Paris, France, 1966
Advanced training in lithography at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts,
Elected a member of The National Academy of Design, New York, 2009
Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities for Academic Year 2007-8
Guest Curator, American Folk Art Museum, NY, for the exhibition,
Gilded Lions andJeweled Horses, From the Synagogue to the Carousel, 2007-8
State University of New York at Purchase – Kempner Distinguished Professor, 1997
State University of New York at Purchase – Professor, 1977 to present
State University of New York at New Paltz – Assistant Professor, 1972-76
Silvermine-Lacoste School of Art, Lacoste, France – Director, 1972
Lehman College, City University of New York – Lecturer, 1972
Silvermine College of Art – Chairman, Graphics Department, Assistant Professor,1969-71
Pratt Graphics Center – Instructor, 1968-71
Cornell University – Teaching Assistant, 1963-65
Bonhams Auction House, NY 2013
American Folk Art Museum, New York, 2006, 2007
Houston Holocaust Museum, Houston, Texas, 2006
Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY, 1989, 1992, 2003, 2005
Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois, 2001
Millbrook School, Millbrook, New York, 2001
Central School of Art, Adelaide, Australia, 2000
College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 2000
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, 1996
The Sydney Jewish Museum, Sydney, Australia, 1996
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 1996
The Jewish Museum, Friedman Lecture Series, New York, NY, 1995
Holocaust Memorial Museum and Educational Center, Madeira Beach, FL, 1994
Rockland Center for the Arts, NY, 1994
Purchase College, Jewish Studies Program, Purchase NY, 1994
Amsterdam School of the Arts, Amsterdam, Holland, 1993
Suffolk Community College, Selden NY, 1993
University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, 1993
National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, PA, 1989
S.U.N.Y. Buffalo, NY, 1989
Haifa University, Haifa, Israel, 1988
Aberdeen Print Studio, Aberdeen, Scotland, 1983
Duncan of Jordan Stone School of Art, Dundee, Scotland, 1983
Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, Scotland, 1983
Saint Martins School of Art, London, England, 1981
Chelsea School of Art, London, England, 1981
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, 1973, 1975, 1977
Philadelphia College of Art, Philadelphia, PA, 1970
Franconia College, Franconia, NH, 1970