Category Archives: By Morris Shapiro

Patriotic Artwork Presented to Family on Military Makeover

After hard work and home renovations, the Military Makeover® team welcomed the Phinizy family to their new South Florida home. The military family stepped inside to find beautiful new appliances, refinished wood floors and their very own Park West Gallery art collection.

“It’s so fulfilling to have the opportunity to bring art into people’s lives who probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity before,” Park West Gallery Director Morris Shapiro said.

Park West Gallery was proud to join the award-winning producers of Designing Spaces® on the mini-series Military Makeover. Throughout the show, Military Makeover serves a deserving military family by completely overhauling their home. This season, Military Makeover thanked veteran Billy Phinizy for his service as an Army combat medic in Afghanistan.

To help make the Phinizy’s house a home, Park West Gallery added the finishing touches with artwork from Peter Max, Norman RockwellRomero Britto and Tim Yanke. Park West Gallery’s master framer also custom-framed several photos as well as an American flag presented to Phinizy upon his retirement.

In recognition of Billy Phinizy’s service, Park West Gallery gifted the Phinizy family with several patriotic works of art:

Artwork from Peter Max’s 9/11 Series

Peter Max 9/11 art

“God Bless America – With Five Liberties” (2001), Peter Max

Max uses the Statue of Liberty as an icon in his 9/11 Series. To adorn the Phinizy family’s walls with eye-catching artwork, Park West Gallery presented the family with 2 of the 6 unique variations in Max’s series.

Custom Tim Yanke “Yanke Doodle”

"Yanke Doodle" (2016) Tim Yanke

“Yanke Doodle” (2016) Tim Yanke

To personalize the Phinizy’s home, Yanke created a custom “Yanke Doodle” specifically for the military family. The “Star-Spangled Banner” is written across the colorful flag, creating a multi-layered work of art that adds a patriotic pop to the room.

Norman Rockwell’s “A Pictorial History of the United States Army”

"A Pictorial History of the United States Army" (2012) Norman Rockwell

“A Pictorial History of the United States Army” (2012) Norman Rockwell

Rockwell’s patriot artwork offers a classic interpretation to the Phinizy family’s new art collection. The painting’s serious nature speaks to the solemn reality of war, a reality Phinizy experienced first-hand as an active military member.

“I Love This Land” Romero Britto

Romero Britto

I Love This Land” (2014) Romero Britto

Britto’s “I Love This Land” is a heartwarming tribute to the freedoms United States citizens experience because of military sacrifices. The colorful, three-dimensional artwork adds a warm glow to the Phinizy family’s newly-remodeled home.

Watch Military Makeover airing on Lifetime TV® Friday at 7:30 a.m. EST/PST. Check out artwork from well-known artists in Park West Gallery’s Holiday Sale Collection online.

Park West Gallery Presents the New Anatole Krasnyansky Book to the Hermitage Museum

Written by Park West Gallery Director Morris Shapiro

krasbook 002I recently had the privilege of presenting a copy of the new Anatole Krasnyansky book to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Nearly 80 Park West collectors accompanied me to this momentous event in July—all part of a special art collector’s cruise hosted by Park West aboard the Celebrity Constellation. The Hermitage’s Head Administrator Svetlana Suprun and Administrator Lidia Komissarova were there to accept the book on behalf of the museum.

Anatole Krasnyansky, a Ukrainian-born American artist, worked at the Hermitage as a young architect. Several illustrations of his projects appear in the new 349-page hardcover book, published by Park West Press. The book chronicles Krasnyansky’s life and artwork, with an introduction written by me and an article by noted art historian, Eleanor Hight, Ph.D. It also includes a fully-referenced catalog raisonné of the artist’s graphic works, spanning over 35 years.

I was honored to write the introduction to the book, and to have it accepted into the library of one of the greatest museums on earth is an amazing privilege and high point of my career. I am so happy for Anatole Krasnyansky, who has worked tirelessly his entire lifetime creating his artwork, and who now has this further accolade added to his impressive accomplishments.

Pictured with Morris Shapiro, Park West Gallery Director (center), are the Hermitage’s Lidia Komissarova, Administrator (left), and Svetlana Suprun, Head Administrator(right), among a group of Park West collectors.

Pictured with Morris Shapiro, Park West Gallery Director (center), are the Hermitage’s Lidia Komissarova, Administrator (left), and Svetlana Suprun, Head Administrator (right), among a group of Park West collectors.

The “Krasnyansky” book is now available for purchase through Park West Gallery and may be ordered by calling 1-800-521-9654 x 4.

Exploring the Art of Charles Lee

“I have had many hardships as an artist, but nothing has been able to stop me. As long as I have life in me, I will paint.” —Charles Lee

Charles Lee. "Autumn Music I" (2012). Park West Gallery Collection.By Morris Shapiro, Park West Gallery Director

Imagine a virtuoso musician, who has such command over his instrument that he can play a Bach fugue, flow effortlessly into a galloping jazz improvisation, segue into a blistering rock guitar solo and end up with some hip-hop on a beat-box and turntable. This is the artist, Charles Lee, in a nutshell.

Lee is another artist, whom I like to call the “Aesthetic Olympians” of our time. He and the others are pulling back hard on the pendulum of beauty, skill, visual eloquence, and uplifting and inspiring content, which have been essentially shunned by the elitist art world in favor of philosophical definitions of what is and isn’t art — “newness,” shock and novelty replacing quality.

It’s easy to be seduced by the sheer loveliness of Lee’s imagery, into believing his works are mainly decorative. They are not. They are rooted in a reverence for the art of the masters and an accumulated fluency honed by decades of hard work and discipline. Each of his paintings is a vehicle for the multiple sensations of metaphor and poetry, expressed through the visual impulses of a practiced hand, eye, heart and mind. He’s filling a void in the world for an art that can speak to the many, not only the select few. And yet for those who wish to take time to contemplate the deeper merits of his art, rewards do also await.

I was first struck by the extraordinary number of styles in which he works. But style can be deceptive. Good art cannot survive through style alone and herein lies one of Lee’s great abilities: to maintain a wide range of diverse styles and approaches with consistent artistic caliber. Behind each work is a rigorous artistic statement. And, he is able to maintain a fluency and consistency of myriad visual elements and devices which overlap and appear throughout all of his styles.

Charles Lee "Adjustment II" (2012). Park West Gallery Collection.Consistent Elements in Lee’s Art

Most easily seen at first is Lee’s advanced use of color. He is as equally proficient with earthy, golden-brown tonalities as he is with bright and sunny colorations. He uses black fearlessly (few artists do, some not at all) and his colors, although comforting and controlled, are carefully arranged to ease the viewer gently into his compositions.

He employs interesting textures in most of his paintings. The surface of the canvas allows him another mode of expression, and he is acutely aware of surface even in his delicately painted “studies” of women’s faces and nudes. Many of his canvasses feature thick impasto emulsions applied to the canvas with palette knife (he told me the technique is his own guarded invention). These push the eye to the very front of the picture plane and serve as a means of “framing” the subject and creating a spatial context for the viewer.

Lee is also keenly aware of pictorial (also known as “plastic”) space in his paintings. Whether depicting a realist subject and creating an illusionist representational space, or layering spatial planes as Picasso did in his cubist manipulations, it is clear that he possesses a mastery of defining pictorial space and can marshal any number of approaches to express his intent.

In his purely abstract paintings, which conjure associations with the color field painters and abstract expressionists, one sees areas “tearing” into the space, like caverns and undulations of pulsing color atmospheres, advancing and receding. These are very advanced compositional devices at work in his paintings and they are not accidental. Rather, his fluency with form and composition allows him the luxury of calling up any number of approaches as a means to an end with each chosen subject or style.

His brushwork is deft, confident and advanced. It is particularly noticeable in the realist subjects, including his landscapes, seascapes and images of women in interiors. In these works he marshals a skilled application of color and is able to model his volumes and surfaces through shadow, light and color temperature.

The final measurement of an artist’s ability may be found in his drawing. It is the basis and the backbone upon which all of the other elements of a good painting must rest. Lee’s drawing skills are enviable and can be appreciated in his delicate studies, his complex and dramatic abstractions and observed throughout his entire range of figurative imagery. He is clearly in possession of facile and expressive drawing skills.

Charles Lee "Golden Time" (2012). Park West Gallery Collection.Exploration and Creative Drive

I am a devoted fan of Picasso’s art. I have studied the man and his art for most of my life and I have rarely met an artist who did not mention Picasso’s name when asked about his/her artistic heroes and inspirations. Like Picasso, Lee is a probing, questioning and exploring artist with a powerful creative and artistic drive at the core of his motivation.

It was said that Picasso created “fractal” art — each image giving birth to dozens of other images all springing and expanding from one into another. A similar process is at work in Lee’s art. He clearly has developed defined approaches as he navigates through his various styles, but each approach is also a repository for many of the same painterly and compositional ideas he is spreading through all of his imagery. They overlap each style and re-emerge as precise visual devices, such as sections of piano keys and contours of musical instruments, metallic applications, heavy textural emulsions added by palette knife, strong lighting contrasts and color juxtapositions, among others. These serve to reinforce his distinct personality and allow the viewer confronted with any number of variations of style, to recognize at the same time, the “mark” of Charles Lee.

I once asked him about the many styles in which he paints and about his varied approaches and techniques, which I found so unusual in one artist. He replied, “I am hungry. I am artistically greedy. I want to cover it all — styles, approaches and techniques.”

Images above: Charles Lee, “Autumn Music I” (2012); “Adjustment II” (2012); “Golden Time” (2012). Park West Gallery Collection.
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September Thoughts: Reflecting on 9/11 and Public Art

Written by MORRIS SHAPIRO, Park West Gallery Director*

9/11 series, peter max, park west galleryAs the month of September draws to an end, it seems inevitable that we reflect back on the apocalyptic events that took place on the 11th day of this month in 2001, and our perspective now, ten years later.

I was in New York on the ten year anniversary of September 11, and spent that morning at the studio of Peter Max with a group of Park West Gallery collectors.

Max, as everyone probably knows, is the American artist most associated with raising funds for various 911 relief funds by selling his American-themed imagery through his website and donating his proceeds. He also painted a portrait of each firefighter who perished at the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and gave the paintings to the surviving family members.

Being there with Max, all of us with our individual memories of where we were that day, and taking it all in, was riveting and emotional. The city itself was on alert and there was a palpable collective consciousness of poignancy, edginess and melancholy permeating.

Another significant event which took place the weekend I was there was the opening of the September 11 National Memorial, first privately opened to the families on the 11th and officially to the public on September 12.

9/11 National Memorial

Designed by Israeli-American architect, Michael Arad, the monument consists of two square pools tracing the outline of where the towers once stood. These will eventually be flanked by 400 trees surrounding them. I didn’t visit the memorial, but as I observed all the media attention surrounding it, while being so close by on that day, I couldn’t help but reflect about public art and how it still retains a powerful attraction to us even in our current overly media-drenched and instantaneous society.

Art historian Nigel Spivey in his seminal book and video series, “How Art Made the World” (Basic Books; 2006), calls attention to the notion that art was the pathway to much of human technology through the millennia. He cites the probable cause of the invention of agriculture (where Homo sapiens abandoned hunting and gathering) as mankind’s need to stay in a singular location. He needed to invent the technology of growing his own food to achieve this goal, and the reason—to be in proximity of “public art” and the desire to be in its presence and to plumb its spiritual mysteries.

Even now, some 60, 000 years later, a work of art left open to everyone’s eyes who passes by, large and scaled to the enormous urban architecture which frames it and resonating with a shared meaning, can still hold our attention and move us in ways that nothing else can match. Our past is linked to our present. The mythology of our own time is communicated to us for reflection, contemplation and even perhaps, as in the case of the September 11 Memorial, healing.

It is comforting to know that as enlightened occupants of the 21st Century, we are still linked to the collective and embedded need for art to speak to us, just as it has done since the dawn of our consciousness. And just as it will always do no matter what befalls.

* To read more by Morris Shapiro, visit his blog: Who Killed Art?

Image credits:
– “God Bless America I, Detail Ver. 1 #4” by ©Peter Max, 2011.
– Artist’s rendering of the 9/11 National Memorial (via http://www.911memorial.org).

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Park West Gallery has enjoyed a relationship with Peter Max since the 1970s, and is the artist’s largest and longest-running dealer in the world. Peter Max fine art is available at Park West Gallery cruise art auctions throughout the world or may be purchased through our gallery in Southfield, Michigan. Browse selections from the Park West Gallery/Peter Max Collection online →

Alfred Gockel: Intention and Discovery

Written by Park West Gallery Director Morris Shapiro

Like a gifted musician, Alfred Gockel approaches his canvas.

Just as in Jazz, when he begins there is an underlying skeletal structure for the composition, but it must be fleshed out through instinct, sensitivity, experience and the ability to always be attuned to the “moment.” Musicians create the form of music through pitch, harmony, melody, rhythm, repetition, tone and dexterity with their instrument, honed by countless hours of practice and performance. The visual artist’s formal tools are equivalent: line, color, composition, spatial and proportional relationships, texture and surface and a mastery of draftsmanship gained only through the practiced repetition of capturing in two dimensions what eye perceives in three.

alfred gockel, park west gallery“Blowin’ the Blues” by Alfred Gockel
Park West Gallery Collection

For centuries, philosophers, historians, critics, artists and musicians themselves have pondered the relationship between the aural (musical) and the visual arts. Alfred Gockel just lives it.

When he paints (as seen in the Park West Gallery “stop-action” video of Gockel creating a painting), he seems to effortlessly apply his lines and forms, painting ambidextrously (a skill considered essential to Jazz drummers). But this belies the intense state of concentration that holds his attention. Gockel appears to instinctively select his colors, render and adjust his shapes and forms and freely move between his large brushes (for tonal areas) and his smaller ones (for detail). But, a closer look will reveal that his actions are a synthesis of instinct and determination, just like in Jazz: a delicate balance of intention and discovery.

Gockel has created his “performance paintings” all over the world and for years, essentially in his way, he has produced lasting “recordings” of his visual “music.” For Park West Gallery, he has created paintings before huge audiences at cruise ship art auctions, and at cruise ship gallery events. But his reach is not limited to art auctions at sea. He has exhibited and painted live from New York to Los Angeles, throughout Europe and in the Far East. Gockel is a restless soul, and his intention is to expose the entire world to his art and he pursues this goal tirelessly.

Alfred Gockel, Park West Gallery“Americana – The North Atlantic” by Alfred Gockel
Park West Gallery Collection

I have known Alfred (Alex to his friends) for many years. In fact, when we are together (we are the same age) at Park West Gallery events we often receive comments about how similar we look (he’s a much better dresser) and we’ve shared many laughs about being “separated at birth.” But together during auctions at sea as well as Park West Gallery events in locations on dry land, we have traversed the globe and our time shared has always been special for me.

Steeped deeply in the history of art, Alfred is adept at a myriad of fine art disciplines beyond painting, including etching, serigraphy, lithography, sculpture and jewelry design. When we are together (whether it’s in Russia, Berlin, or Las Vegas), we jockey back and forth, bantering like two old Jazz musicians reminiscing about their mentors and inspirations. Except in our case, rather than names like Coltrane, Miles, Charlie Parker or Louis Armstrong, our conversations are peppered with the names, Picasso, Miro, Kandinsky and Dali…all clear influences in his work.

In 2009, Gockel painted two of the last remaining unpainted panels of the Berlin Wall, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Germany. Gockel was invited to showcase these compelling and history-making artworks at the German Embassy in Athens, Greece as part of the reunification anniversary celebrations. In 2006, Alfred was honored by being chosen as an official artist of the U.S. Olympic Committee for the Winter Olympics held in Turin, Italy. Millions of people were exposed to his art through that event.

alfred gockel, park west gallery“USOC Olympic Celebration” by Alfred Gockel
Park West Gallery Collection

Over his career as the accolades have piled on and the celebrities, corporations and enthusiastic collectors have lined up to collect his artwork, Gockel has remained true to his original calling, humble and approachable. He possesses the stature of a “Rock Star” in his native Germany (another musical allusion), but neither this, nor his success has gone to his head. Instead he remains devoted to filling the world with art that is energetic, colorful, joyful and expressive of a lifetime of creativity in flow.

In 1910, the Russian abstract master, Wassily Kandinsky, one of Gockel’s artistic heroes wrote in his seminal treatise, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, the following:

“Color is the key. The eye is the hammer. The soul is the piano with its many chords. The artist is the hand that, by touching this or that key, sets the soul vibrating automatically.”

If Kandinsky’s words ring true, then the art of Alfred Gockel is playing a fine tune, and the world is tapping its foot and whistling along.

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→ To learn more about the artist, please visit the Park West Gallery Alfred Gockel website at www.parkwest-gockel.com

→ Alfred Gockel fine art is available for purchase through Park West Gallery and its cruise art auctions at sea. Browse the Park West Gallery Fine Art Collection at http://sales.parkwestgallery.com 

Read more exclusive articles by Park West Gallery Director Morris Shapiro at his blog, “Who Killed Art,” at http://morrisshapiro.com

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Yaacov Agam—21st Century Genius

“For twenty years, I tried, and finally I understood,
the image must be something that becomes,
not something that is.
Where is truth, where is the true order? The only truth is the truth of states of being, and the passage of time which destroys itself.”
—YAACOV AGAM, 1971

Yaacov Agam, Park West GalleryYaacov Agam “AT” | Park West Gallery Collection

By Morris ShapiroPark West Gallery Director

“Genius” is a hard word to substantiate, as these days in our transient and disposable culture it is often thrown about in reference to all sorts of people from all walks of life. But too often, sadly, novelty is confused with quality.

In the case of 81-year-old artist Yaacov Agam, the word “genius” only touches the surface. The world is filled with his art. From giant installations found in places as far flung as Taipei, Jerusalem and New York City, to individual objects that grace the collections of his devotees from all over the world, Agam has made his mark, which will not be erased from history.

Born in 1921 as the son of an Orthodox rabbi, Agam’s consciousness was always shrouded in mysticism. Steeped in the Kabbala along with the spiritual writings of Wassily Kandinsky and the conceptual revolutions of form and color developed by Johannes Itten and Josef Albers, Agam emerged with an art form independent from all others. In Agam’s art there is a departure from traditional forms of visual expression. In conventional art, everything is visible. Agam’s art strives to capture the invisible; the possible but not yet experienced, and in this way the infinite.

Agam says, “I am not an abstract artist… Abstract art shows a situation on a canvas. I show a state of being which does not exist, the imperceptible absence of an image… The infinity of possibilities, opposing the chance of a presence, a possibility.”

Yaacov Agam, Park West GalleryYaacov Agam “Colorful Sky View” | Park West Gallery Collection

When one encounters an Agam work, an indefinable experience occurs. Rather than in the traditional artistic experience—where the viewer passively absorbs what the artist has created—in Agam’s art the viewer and the artwork merge. The artwork cannot appear, or come into being, without the participation of the viewer; the creative process and the aesthetic experienced are mingled, and inseparable from one another. The work of art does not exist unless the viewer is engaged and thereby involved in creating its existence.

Walk past a work of Agam‘s and take in the intricate number of manifestations and visible expressions that appear as you move before it. Slide a moveable element from side to side and watch imagery appear from “nowhere,” suddenly and momentarily visible until another millimeter of movement is induced and it vanishes, only to be replaced by yet another visual surprise. Touch a sculpture by Agam and rearrange its elements into yet another of the infinite number of three-dimensional compositions which may be created. All of these experiences are what defines his art, and his genius.

His colors are of the rainbow, God’s first work of art given to man in a pact with Noah (Agam describes the “phenomenon of light” as “inexplicable.”). His forms and structures are marvels of simplicity and simultaneous complexity. His “polymorphic” paintings and multiples are merely corrugations with color adhered to the sides, and yet their purity and simplicity point to profound and universal mysteries discovered in the appearance and disappearance of things.

Yaacov Agam, Park West GalleryYaacov Agam “Festival Night Dance” | Park West Gallery Collection

In 1964, Agam wrote his artistic credo. Fully formed and unchanged since that time, it has provided the inexhaustible wellspring of his art and sustained him for nearly 50 years, without limitation. He says in it, “My intention was to create a work of art which would transcend the visible, which cannot be perceived except in stages, with the understanding that it is a partial revelation and not the perpetuation of the existing. My aim is to show what can be seen within the limits of possibility which exists in the midst of coming into being.”

It is through Agam that the aesthetic narrative was re-engaged after having been cast aside by the conceptualists. He has taken up the thread of aesthetic beauty, added the notion of time, space and the infinite, and forged his place in the pantheon of the geniuses of art history.

Park West Gallery is honored to have had a relationship with this contemporary master for over 30 years and to present his artworks to our clients, who continue to enthusiastically embrace his astonishing and unforgettable creations.

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Artwork selections from Park West’s Yaacov Agam collection are available for purchase through Park West Gallery and our cruise art auctions at sea. 

» Visit the Park West Gallery – Yaacov Agam Fine Art Collection online 
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In Pursuit of Nobility—The Art of Robert Kipniss

Robert Kipniss, fine art prints, Park West Gallery, Morris Shapiro, cruise art auctions“Crossings II” by Robert Kipniss | Park West Gallery Collection

~ Written by Morris Shapiro, Park West Gallery Director ~

“The development of an ability to work from memory, to select factors, to take things of certain constructive values and build with them a special thing, your unique vision of nature, the thing you caught in an instant look of a face or the formations of a moment in the sky, will make it possible to state not only that face, that landscape, but make your statement of them as they were when they were most beautiful to you.”  —Robert Henri (1865-1929), letter to the class, Art Students League, 1915

As a young art student in Minneapolis one day in 1974, I experienced an artistic awakening. While wandering through an art display in a bank, I was touched by a singular work; a lithograph in dark tones of brown and green. I stopped, contemplated it for a moment and moved on.

A few minutes later I felt an urge to revisit that same work and see if I could ascertain what it was that had attracted me to it. I studied the work more carefully. In it, were a few small houses, nestled in a deep receding landscape. Trees appeared as well. Their leaves fluttered in a tangible and yet empty space, but there were no branches connecting them. As I viewed the work, I was overcome with a poignant feeling, a mood I could not associate, but felt nevertheless. I moved on to take in the remaining works by other artists in the exhibition, but I continued to feel a tug to return to that work again and experience its remarkable effect on me.

I went back yet a third time. This time, I slowed down and took in the composition, the technique used, the overall balance and order of the work. All these impressed me equally and served to heighten the mood I was experiencing at the same time. I took notice of the artist’s name then, finally. It was Robert Kipniss, American; born 1931. Little did I know at the time, what a profound aesthetic experience I had just encountered and what effect it would have on me for years to come.

Fast forward: years later. I had come to know Kipniss’ works intimately through my association with the Merrill Chase Galleries in Chicago, where I worked as Gallery Director. I had met him on several occasions and had become deeply attracted to his work. I had presented it to hundreds of collectors and observed close hand the remarkable effect his imagery had on people from all walks of life and at all levels of artistic sophistication. I had studied his history and was well aware of his extraordinary credentials, the awards and prizes he had attained and his extensive museum representation throughout the world. All of this made me a deep Kipniss fan, but I had another experience, one of which the teacher, painter and aesthetician, Robert Henri so eloquently spoke in his letter to the Art Student’s League of 1915, quoted above (ironically, where Kipniss studied also in the late 1940’s). 

Robert Kipniss, Park West Gallery, cruise art auctions, Morris Shapiro, fine art prints“Sentinels II (first state)” by Robert Kipniss | Park West Gallery Collection

It was a warm early autumn evening. I was relaxing outdoors sitting with family and friends and as dusk crept in, I was observing the sky through a close-knit group of trees a few feet from me. As I looked up I caught a moment of fleeting, transient beauty. The fading light had created a splash of leaf silhouettes flickering in the gentle wind. All I could see were the silhouettes of the leaves, without branches connecting them to the trees, the fluid dark trunks all set against a deep blue-grey sky.

It was, as I realized, a “living Kipniss moment.”

It occurred to me at that very instant that my experience was a reflection of the finest compliment to an artist that can ever be paid; my perception of nature, my experience, a visual miraculous moment, was enhanced and even attuned by my familiarity of Robert’s work. His “vision” had awakened my experience, allowed it to happen, and implanted more deeply my appreciation for life and the beautiful visual miracles that surround all of us continually, if we are only “in tune” enough to see them.

This phenomenon is not unfamiliar to Robert Kipniss. It is in effect that for which he strives.

He has said, “I may be painting trees and houses, but when I look at them, that’s not what I see. I see an atmosphere, a moment, a quickly passing experience that I’m trying to capture. My art is an art of intensity, of delving, of exploring the soul.”

The experience of viewing a Kipniss work is one which requires a determined engagement and attention on the part of the viewer. As I often say: “You have to go to great art. It doesn’t often come to you.” At first view, a Kipniss work may appear so subtle that one will walk right past it. But those who linger are rewarded.

His images draw us in with a confluence of impressions, personal associations and feelings only hinted at. Feelings which suggest past experiences derived from our own trace memories and perceptions of nature, remembered somewhere deep within us. We may not be conscious of these visual or immersive memories, but Kipniss’ works seem to psychologically engage us and pull these impressions forward into our conscious minds. Some say that the experience is “surreal.” Others call it a form of visual “déjà vu” as if they “remember” a scene, but can’t quite “put their finger on it.” His works have been called “imaginary landscapes,” “surrealist landscapes,” “dream landscapes” and “trance-like.” To Kipniss they are his means to, “grasp that which we can never possess, except for the moment.”

Although every work of art may be perceived and evaluated in terms of both its form and its content, in Kipniss’ work it is difficult to separate them. Much of the dreamlike and captivating quality of his works is derived from the absolutely meticulous compositions he constructs.

Every spatial, proportional, tonal, textural, and formal relationship in a Kipniss work is perfectly calculated and arranged. The eye feels no tension while moving through and into the illusionary spaces he constructs. Every element supports and engages another and another, which creates an overall effect of extreme ease and mystery at the same time. Renaissance painters would often refer to their painting compositions as “machines,” whereby every element would be tightly controlled, and “bolted” down to allow the work to “run” smoothly for the viewer. In Kipniss, they “purr” along in perfect balance and the longer we observe the more we “feel” his mastery in depicting mood and a sense of wonderment.

Robert Kipniss, Park West Gallery, fine art prints, Morris Shapiro, cruise art auctions at sea“Appoggiatura” by Robert Kipniss | Park West Gallery Collection

Commenting on Kipniss’ works in a 2007 catalog, Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions for the Mississippi Museum of Art, Daniel Piersol observed, “The issues of time and place are subtly but unmistakably invested in every Kipniss image… his captivating images are not merely nostalgic; rather, they are freighted with a haunting reverie. Through his masterful use of subdued color and purposefully structured compositions, the painter controls the viewer’s ability to ‘read’ or comprehend his images, thereby causing one to linger before them.” 

These compelling characteristics of his work are well suited to the challenging and highly demanding technique of mezzotint, which Kipniss has mastered and employed for decades. Few ever attempt it.

Briefly described, a metal plate is pitted across its entire surface by either using a “rocker” tool or by machine (which Kipniss prefers for predictability). The plate, if then printed, would produce a rich, velvety and solid black, characteristic qualities which are unique to the “alchemy” of intaglio printing. The artist then works the pitted surface with a burnisher, smoothing out areas so that the more he smooths the area, the less ink will reside in the pitted grooves and indentations and consequently print. The artist therefore, is in essence, working backward from dark to light. This laborious technique creates the broad tonal variations and dramatic contrasts which are important in Kipniss’ works and can be so effectively employed through the mezzotint process.

Kipniss commented as follows about the technique: “The nature of mezzotint is that it is about objects emerging from darkness, catching light and being defined by their shadows as well as by their highlights. If you wanted to do something lighter or airier, you would use a dry-point or lithograph. That’s what happens in mezzotint and is why I really fell so much in love with it. It enables me to achieve the density that frequently eluded me in lithography.”

In an age where so much of art has become concerned with creating something “new,” something “novel” and something which focuses more on definitions of what is and isn’t art, Robert Kipniss is an artist of immense rarity. It is refreshing to see his work so embraced by museums, galleries and collectors all over the world and a testament to the quality of his artwork and his enduring message.

To once again quote the words of Robert Henri, a legendary hero to those who devote their lives to the pursuit of aesthetic beauty, often at great struggle and personal cost:

“It is not too much to say that art is the noting of the existence of order throughout the world, and so, order stirs imagination and inspires one to reproduce this beautiful relationship existing in the universe, as best one can. Everywhere I find that the moment order in nature is understood and freely shown, the result is nobility.”

I invite you to take some time and enter into the world of Robert Kipniss’ art. I believe once therein, you will also be one who discovers “nobility.”

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The artwork of Robert Kipniss is available at Park West Gallery cruise art auctions throughout the world or may be purchased through our gallery in Southfield, Michigan. Learn more about Robert Kipniss at Park West Artist Biographies or view selections of the artist’s works in the Park West Gallery Online Collection.

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