Thursday, June 7, 2012

Richard Schreiner: A Timeless, Social "Introspective"

In a still life world Richard Schreiner, the person, would appear as Cezanne's Basket of Apples. Well composed, with soft colors wrapped around a centered body built upon a philosophical mind field of nurturing warmth and, just slightly hidden from view, a contrasting wry sense of humor.  And Richard Schreiner the painter?  "Well, this guy's not just polishing apples!" 

No, you won't find any flowers or apples in Richard's work. Richard Schreiner is, first and foremost, a figurative painter whose subject matter is, and always has been, the human condition. And he does so with a rhythmic hand, allowing us to enter the painting and consider its context. And while it isn't pretty, it is, rather, beautiful. 

He weaves a dance like no other, leaving just the right amount of room between you and the lead, which in this case is his canvas, to explore your own personal reactions and thoughts. Each comes from a place of humanity, painted by a man of humility yet with a strong, competitive fire that seems to say, "take that, you bastard!" And so the aria of emotion begins. 

Richard's works express the engagement we have with various human conditions. And while the philosophical statements may not be readily apparent on the surface of each canvas, their beauty is also in the way of its telling. 

Take for instance "Sailor" (above, far right wall). This could, to the passing viewer, simply be a dark painting of a man out for a sail.  But Richard's intelligent composition pulls you in and gives you time, as if painted for those of us that need it. You look more closely at the sailor's face, notice he is leaning and looking away from you (as if you don't exist!) and note that he is well dressed and holding a large wheel of a tiller. This is when you sense there is something more here. Is he the "have" side of the "have and have nots?" The answers don't have to be spray-painted across a bridge trellis, but they do require you to consider their meaning.

And this is how he wants the lightbulbs to go off.  His expressive brush strokes whirl around and suck you into his world, a world so poetically crafted over the course of decades across his larger than life-sized canvases that it's amazing to learn that these works haven't seen the light of day for decades. And such strength & commentary can not be, nor should be, fully appreciated without experiencing them in person.   

What:    "Richard Schreiner: La Viscere de la Bete Noir, A Retrospective" 

Where:    Hollingsworth Gallery, 160 Cypress Pt Pkwy, Palm Coast, FL

Cost:       Free and open to the public, runs in partial through August 8, 2012


As a young man, Richard was living the text book definition of the 1950's West Side of New York City tough-guy story - he even belonged to a gang and wielded a blade. But his truly deep, dark secret was that he was also carrying straight A's in school. And this, as it turned out, was his ticket off the streets. He quietly applied for and earned, in addition to his black belt in karate, a full merit scholarship to the University of Buffalo (S.U.N.Y.) - renowned then as it is now for its arts & education program. They got him going, gave him a stint in Italy and sent him back to New York City with a B.S. degree in his pocket. But he wasn't stopping there.

Final Sentence, 77 x 44" Acrylic

He was accepted into Yale where he earned his BFA and MFA, took classes from Elaine de Kooning, handled the grunt work at some of the best NYC galleries where he was able to hang with such artists as James Rosenquist (one of the protagonists in the pop-art movement) and spent quality time working independently for and becoming friends with one of the leading cybernetic artists of our time, Wen Ying Tsai (his work is in the permanent collection at the Tate). 

Schreiner was inspired and influenced by three maverick New York City abstract expressionists - Lester Johnson, Al Held and Jack Tworkov.  But it was his relationship with the educational philosopher, author, social activist and teacher, Maxine Greene that had the most profound influence on him. Maxine oversaw Richard's dissertation while earning his doctorate in Art & Philosophy at Columbia University's Teacher's College and was a great friend.  Richard took a very individualistic path developing his own style that mirrored much of what he studied under Greene who believes and taught that "art is a conduit to mean-making, a way of making sense of the world." 

And while Richard spent the next thirty-seven years in academia, as a nurturing and inspiring art teacher and eventually as District Supervisor of the arts program for the East Meadow school district out on Long Island, his own personal growth and ambitious work ethic quietly continued to grow inside his New York City studio. 

And then, as often happens, he put down his brushes for what he thought would be for good and retired with his wife, Arleen, to Palm Coast, FL. He tipped around until serendipity stomped when he stumbled into Hollingsworth Gallery. Here he not only became fast friends with owner, Director John J.J. Graham, he was man-talked back into painting and soon was sharing a studio and once again back teaching.

This retrospective of Richard Schreiner's work is of the quality one would expect to see in a New York City museum, yet it also hollers off the City Marketplace balcony the high level of talent Palm Coast quietly holds in her arms and of which Hollingsworth Gallery embraces. The exhibition continues in partial through August 8, 2012.
Rage, 14 x 24" Acrylic on Massonite