John Connell’s artwork focuses on the gestures of beings and essence of nature with reductive approaches using ephemera, mementos and uncommon materials. The art is raw and powerful, yet sophisticated because of its honesty and authenticity.
David Richard Gallery will present A Mind to Obey Nature, a survey of paintings, collages, drawings and sculptures by John Connell (1940-2009) in his first solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition will be presented May 30 - July 12, 2014 with an opening reception Friday, May 30, 5:00-7:00 PM. The gallery is located on 544 South Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, phone 505-983-9555 in the Santa Fe Railyard Arts District.
The content of John Connell’s art was very much inspired by nature, Zen philosophies and wabi-sabi concepts of transience, while his visual approach echoed that of the Arte Povera movement in Europe. Paintings, collages, drawings and sculptures created with a variety of materials, including paint, tar, gravel, paper, wood, textiles, pure pigment, iron oxide, glue and ink on a variety of supports will be presented. His very long scrolls of meditation-inspired figures created with spray paint on a wide range of papers in the early 1980s—early examples and prefiguring graffiti and Street Art—will also be exhibited. The elegant shapes of the figures and nearly exact proportions demonstrated his skill as a figurative painter. More than technical skills, these works demonstrated Connell’s creative genius, his passion for scale and spontaneity and living in the moment. He was a keen observer of not only nature, but also people, with an innate ability to capture mere gestures that evoke an entire understanding of a being or situation. Connell was a true abstract artist, focusing on just the essence through reductive approaches, simplifying both process and materials and conveying the maximum information with the greatest economy of means. His use of detritus and ephemera furthers the notion of temporality and mortality in life and the renewal process in nature, from form to ashes and back to form again, a continuum and infinite.
Connell’s art making practice also maps to Institutional Critique as he challenged not only the definition of painting and art in general, but also where and how art was viewed. He painted on roofing underlayment, craft paper and paper bags and used wire, rags, wood and other non-conventional objects, such as clam shells—mostly from personal experiences—for his sculptures and collages. His exhibitions frequently included paintings and drawings unframed and pinned to the wall. The place and apparatus of presentation was less important than capturing the essence of a reclined figure or the awkward stance of a baby bird readying for flight. His art is real and human, which is why nearly everyone can both relate and enjoy it—the reason why Connell made his art.
This exhibition is a companion show to Connell’s solo exhibition, John Connell: Cheap Secrets of the East at the Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM from May 17 – September 7, 2014.
John Connell was born in Atlanta and studied at Brown University in Providence in the late 1950s. He then moved to New York and studied at the Art Students League and New York University before moving to San Francisco in the mid-1960s. Eventually relocating to the Southwest, he lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for most of his career. His artwork is included in many public and private collections, including The Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; The Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas; The Harwood Museum, Taos, New Mexico; The Hess Collection, Napa Valley, California; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York; Museum of Albuquerque, NM; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe; and Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona, among others.