Monday, May 25, 2009

Betty Cuningham Gallery, 541 West 25stJohn Lees: works on paper May 7-June 13

John Lees is an old school painters painter whose physically aggressive use of the medium, and slow deliberate method of painting has characterized his work for over three decades. This show of drawings are if anything more expressive, because of the physical fragility of the paper. The same way the duration of the work causes the surfaces of his paintings to build up also causes the surfaces of his drawings to break down. Lees usually uses a mixture of medium, and these drawings have a beautifully beat up and distressed quality, that is never self conscious. In some cases the paper is ripped through by the relentless drawing and redrawing of an image, a process that for Lees often takes ten years or more. The man should get points for tenacity.

Lees's subject matter is common place and has only personal significance, but he's one of these artists who addresses the universal through the particular. He draws his dog, his saxophone, or paths and streams that are near where he lives--the things that he cares about and enjoys looking at. The influence of Chinese art is pretty obvious, but I also think that the sketches of Leonardo, and other Renaissance masters inform Lees hand. In the spirit of disclosure I should mention that Lees's was a professor of mine when I was in art school and I'm pretty familiar with his work, but I think I would like it even if I were seeing it for the first time.


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  2. I think you need a better photo. You are not helping him here although commentary is good. We need share in what you see. Better photo or no photo or this really how it looks?