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Richard Mayhew

Jun 18, 2009-Aug 15, 2009

Press Release | Works | Review

Artist Reception: 6-8pm Thursday June 18th, 2009


The landscape genre encompasses a range of approaches along the continuum from representation to abstraction.  For over half a century, Richard Mayhew has been actively exploring that terrain in his vibrant studies of light and color.  I am proud to welcome Mayhew as a gallery artist at ZONE: CONTEMPORARY ART.  밠onuments is a rare solo exhibition, curated to present highlights from the full career of one of our greatest living painters.  In the course of preparing 밠onuments, I was struck by how this thoroughly contemporary artist rethinks the long tradition of transfigured topography, a tradition that includes the Romanticism of J.M.W. Turner, the optical experiments of Claude Monet and the non-figurative modernism of Mark Rothko.


Born in New York, in 1924, Mayhew is descended from both African American and Native American stock.  The interplay of water, land and sky around his Long Island home instilled a life-long passion for luminosity.  His biography encapsulates the exciting course of mid-twentieth-century American art: he studied under Max Beckman, Edwin Dickman and Ruben Tam, and he knew Jackson Pollock, William de Kooning, and Franz Klein.  In 1963, he became a co-founder, along with Romare Bearden and Norman Lewis, of the Spiral Group, an association of black artists.  He has influenced a new generation through teaching stints at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, the Art Students League, and Pennsylvania State University.  In 1991, Mayhew moved to Soquel, California.  The ZONE exhibition is a prelude to an upcoming celebration of Mayhew뭩 career, each focusing on a different period, at three California museums: the de Saisset Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), and the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz.


The exhibition reveals an artist with a unique perspective on two of the great movements in American art history: the pantheistic Hudson River School and the Abstract Expressionists, with their shamanistic paint-handling.  Mayhew뭩 ecstatic color fields are grounded in recognizable elements, such as the statuesque trees that are a recurring motif in 밠onuments, resonant with the emblematic power of the druidic World Tree.  A master of atmospheric perspective, he deftly balances a vestigial sense of spatial recession with a dynamic engagement with the two-dimensional surface, layering paint for incandescent effects.  Throughout a long and still-vital career, Mayhew has stayed true to the painter뭩 mission, using color and form to tap into primordial creation.  A jazz musician, as well as a long-term professor in the visual arts, he grasps the underlying importance of formal rhythm and harmony.  His improvisations on color run the gamut from tonalist to psychedelic, but always illuminate the profound connections between nature and art.


Richard Mayhew has received numerous awards and honors from many national institutions and foundations, including the National Academy of Design, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and Pennsylvania State University.  His selected permanent collections include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Museum of American Art, the Newark Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.


Jennifer Bahng



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