A 50 Year Gaze Forward

Angel in the Wind, acrylic on canvas, 47 x 41 inches

Ronnie Landfield 50th Anniversary Exhibition

Findlay Gallery, NYC

In 1962 Ronnie Landfield first exhibited his work in New York and in 1969 had his first one man show at the David Whitney Gallery in New York City. Now over 50 years later Findlay Galleries is presenting a show of his latest work. We spoke with the Findlay Galleries Associate Director,  Matthew Shamnoski about the show.

Kathleen Cullen: The show recently got an important and really positive review. Can you describe how that happened and the impact on the show? 

Matthew Shamnoski: The review came about through a lifelong follower of Ronnie’s work and career, Ara Osterweil. She felt that given the occasion -- 50 years since his first solo exhibition -- a review of his most recent body of work was in order. In addition to the 2019 paintings, our exhibition also included a few from the 1990s. These were important to give the viewer context, showing a bit of where Ronnie is from and where he intends to go next. Since the review, we have extended the length of the exhibition and have received an influx of gallery visitors. Beyond this, we have also received a very favorable response from our clients. Who could possibly ignore Ara's opening line,

"He may not yet be a household name, but Ronnie Landfield is one of the best abstract painters in America."

Any collector would be pleased to hear that an artwork they've acquired or are considering acquiring is described as such.

KC: How did Ronnie Landfield respond to the reception? 

MS: Ronnie was ecstatic. As an artist of his magnitude, who often seems to be glossed over in the canon of art history, I think this review represented a big step forward for both him and his career. We hope that we can build on this momentum and achieve what Area mentions in her last line, which is "…a museum show in his hometown."

KC: How do you think his work fits in the context of today's contemporary art scene?  

Vision of Tomorrow, acrylic on canvas, 37 1/2 x 75 inches

MS: Ronnie Landfield provides a connection to a generation of the art world that has all but passed. His work at once reaches back to early Lyrical Abstraction and stain painting while also remaining fresh and relevant. Through his interest in current events and happenings, he has a remarkable ability to capture the feelings of this moment in which we live. His paintings are portals through which we are able to view nature as both an idealized world as well as one affected by humankind. 

KC: Besides being a contemporary art pioneer, Ronnie, is an accomplished teacher and mentor. How was putting a show together with him differ than when you work with someone early in their career? What made it more difficult? What made it easier? 

MS: We often do not change the ways in which we curate shows for artists early in their career versus artists like Ronnie who are much more established and historic. The basic ideas and principles remain the same -- shows are hung chronologically, thematically, or based on simple rules of design such as shape and color. Curating a show for Ronnie has never been difficult. All of his paintings have individual stories to tell, but are imbued with chromatic unity and an innate ability to create a dialogue with one another. 

Edge of Ulysses, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 50 1/2 x 54"

KC: Hope to get it out in late spring. I felt strongly about one of the smaller pieces. Having had a gallery, I always found that there was one piece I coveted. Is there one in this show that you feel that way about? Please tell us which piece and why?

MS: As you can imagine, it's always difficult to pick a favorite. But, if there was one that I would love to take home and hang on my own wall, it would be "Coming Home, 2019," the painting reproduced in the ArtForum article. "Coming Home" has all of the qualities one would want in a classic Ronnie Landfield, while also taking on a newer point of view. It incorporates bands, directive brush strokes, and of course organic staining. But "Coming Home" is also a decidedly more brooding, moody composition. Ronnie captures a subtle optimism through hues of orange and the emergence of vivid yellow -- as sunlight would break through clouds after a storm. In a way he's telling us a brighter future awaits.

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