Facing the Postmodern Art World

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Facing the World, Self-Portrait, 1998, acrylic on canvas, 16” x 12″ Private collection

Poets and Artists published this on September 2nd, 2018.

Romanticist in a Postmodern Art World

In 1998, the year of the above self-portrait, I was living in my rented two-story Turkish house/studio in the Old Town of Rhodes, Greece, which overlooked the Mediterranean and the town’s minarets and domes. Two decades before, as a 20-year-old American, I had started my focused art journey in The Hague, Holland. Between Holland and Greece I moved every few years seeking inspiration from a different culture, a beautiful place, or from a big city’s energy. Everywhere I lived I produced my own pop-up shows, selling enough to keep painting. I tried both New York and Los Angeles a few times, knocking on their art scene doors, but my aesthetic was incompatible with contemporary art institutions. I was a romanticist aiming for my definitive works to have the feeling of a Puccini opera. Meanwhile postmodernists were rejecting art’s evolutionary developments and seriously trying to create from a preoperational cognitive state of mind like Louise Bourgeois. Others like Duchamp, Creed, and Christo sought to be radically original by using shocking, unlikely, and unrepeatable mediums for visual art. Continue reading

Newberry at To Dentro by Thodoris Archontopoulos

Archaeologist Thodoris Archontopoulos takes us on a journey through Newberry’s works in progress. Originally published in the Greek newspaper the Rodiaki, 1996.

Newberry, The Pond, wip, oil on linen

The Pond, wip, oil on linen, 54 x 48″. Destroyed.

Michael Newberry exhibits his works in Rhodes at the salon-like gallery To Dentro (the Tree), June 15th through July 13th 1996.

Newberry has lived in Rhodes since 1995. Previously, he studied art in Los Angeles and in Holland and exhibited in The Hague, Brussels, New York, and frequently in Los Angeles, where he taught drawing and composition for four years at Otis/Parsons College of Art and Design.

In 1995 he exhibited in the Bastion of Saint George, sponsored by Rhodes Cultural Affairs and the Archaeological Service of the Dodecanese.

This year’s exhibition is of large canvases and their preparatory studies in pastel and pencil on paper. This exhibition represents a profound confession to all of us as Newberry takes an absolutely transparent look into the communication between the audience and the artist. Newberry shows us, in an uncommon way, how and even perhaps why he paints.

The character of this exhibition reveals the genesis of painting, but it also allows us to grasp how these expressive studies are united by a common vision, an unusual concept for an exhibition. In three large, unfinished paintings and many preparatory studies (45), we get a special look into the construction of the paintings through their relation to the studies. While the studies are made with different techniques in the mediums of pastel, pencil, and oil, they relate to one another, are connected by a common cause: form and light. Out of form and light the basic idea and the message combine with the color to create a personal aesthetic.

Pastel Color Study for the Pond

Pastel Color Study for the Pond

Atmosphere Graphite Study for the Pond.

Atmosphere Graphite Study for the Pond

Graphite Landscape and Water Study for the Pond.

Graphite Landscape and Water Study for the Pond

By observing these two elements, the paintings and their studies, we can locate the common rudiments of form, composition, light, and atmosphere. The studies’ differences of details, atmospheric light, and colors reveal the time involved in the conception of a large painting, and they contribute to the elevation of the aesthetic of the paintings.

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Ascension Day Reviewed by Ted Keer

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Newberry, "Ascension Day", oil on linen, 86 x 70 inches, private collection.

Newberry, “Ascension Day”, oil on linen, 86 x 70 inches, private collection.

Note: Ted Keer pass away last month, he had a wonderful curious mind, and it was an honor that he wrote something about a few of my works including the review below:

Michael Newberry’s “Ascension Day” is one of my favorite of his non-traditional paintings. I believe that the essence of my enjoyment is the fully worked out form which simultaneously presents both symmetry and asymmetry, beauty and tension, action and self-centeredness.

When I visited his studio, Michael and I discussed his axiomatic concepts of figurative painting which he designates as form, space and light. I don’t wish to comment at length on his theory, but those who wish to know what he has to say should visit his website and read his statements. I did not discuss this specific painting with Michael, and have intentionally not sought his remarks on it, so that I might comment without bias.

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Synergy

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Newberry Synergy oil paintingSynergy
oil on linen, 82 x 66 inches, studio inventory.

Laying down in a closed, dark, tiled space, too young to understand, too inexperienced to sort through feelings, and in too much pain to be aware of the world around him, the ten year old had no choice but to examine everything–or face oblivion. Deep inside him surfaced a feeling of goodness. That feeling would ultimately anchor him to life and earth.

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Chaos, The Bringer of Equilibrium

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Counterpose: Chaos, the Bringer of EquilibriumCounterpose: Chaos, the Bringer of Equilibrium, oil on linen, 36 x 42 inches, studio inventory

 

Chaos was depressed. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t manage to cope with all of the contradictory forces within her: darkness, burning lights, forms, demons, angels, and bright colors. No single element was the answer to the meaning of existence. It was as if a hundred opinionated voices were speaking all at once, forcefully demanding their spot at the top of the heap. There was nothing tangible to fight, and there was no place to flee. She said: “What an unbearable life.”

 

There was one tiny, microscopic Sublime atom in the chaotic flux that wasn’t fighting, yelling, or competing. It softly mused: “This is all so silly because there is beauty in everything and everything has its nature. I know there is sense to all of this, we only need to discover the key.”

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The Collector

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58A1D7B0-E9CB-4495-9A41-B41318FB52D4“The Collector”, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 inches, private collection

“Life is made up of compromises,” said his teacher. “You will learn that the world doesn’t work that way,” said his other teacher. “Yes, I know I said ‘always be aggressive when you are ahead,’ but make this an exception and be safe,” said his desperate coach. Only once did he discount his inner voice and follow advice that didn’t compute; it ended in a colossal failure. The problem wasn’t so much that their advice was bad, but it didn’t resonate with him.

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Man from Manhattan

manmanhattanE.jpgMan from Manhattan (Self-Portrait), oil on linen, 66 x 44 inches, private collection

 

Grandparents and Rothko

Before World War II, my maternal grandfather, George, moved from Switzerland (or Germany, accounts are a little fuzzy) to live in Argentina, then Canada, where he seduced 18-year-old Edna, who would later become my grandmother. . Then they drove south to Los Angeles and got married.  He wore hats and suits, she did too, wide brimmed hats and silk stockings. He loved sports and opera and she loved the Renaissance and Romantic painters. Edna found a particular Time magazine cover story hilariously funny. On the cover was a Rothko painting, and she roared with laughter at her joke: “This is like the house painter painting large square patches and saying: “Hey lady, which color do you want?” She never had any doubts about absurdities.

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Puccini

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Puccini
oil on linen, 60 x 70 inches, private collection.

 

As a pre-teen, I often felt an unbearable delight in things: There was a local sub shop run by a Sicilian man named Tony. Tony used imported Italian ingredients to make his submarine sandwiches, and the combination of rich flavors created an explosion in my mouth and spirit. It was the same with da Vinci drawings. Da Vinci drawings swept me through currents of light and air giving me a delicious feeling for his beautiful people. I felt like I was born Italian in a past life, but was cursed to be brought up in the artificially bright culture of mid-20th century America, with its Doris Day look-alikes, CIA-sponsored Rothko paintings, Wishbone dressing, and psychologically immature, posturing, drunken men. Though my normal character loves wondrous things, I also felt sadness and shyness. Shyness about the things that rocked my world, and sadness for seeing so much superficiality in my town.

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Venus Oil Study, Alternative Version

venus3E.jpg

Venus 3, oil on linen, 46 x 26 inches. Studio inventory.

Venus was the most beautiful baby born, but she was cursed in two ways: First, no one knew who her father was, her mother deftly convincing the village that the father was Zeus. The second curse was that she was indeed beautiful. She drew looks of appraisal and sometimes envy from everyone she passed. But she felt tremendous shame because she thought they were staring at her because of her illegitimacy.

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