“JR@Eighty was the title of a recent exhibition of monumental watercolors by Joseph Raffael at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in Chelsea. There were three themes which were explored in this exhibition: Gardens in refulgent bloom, Shells and Fossils, and the Japanese Koi Pond. These types of images from nature have been prominent, not only in his work for the last three years, but also for his entire career in painting.
The new work is more intimate, more intense, more filled with light and splendor. This is Joseph Land, the title of David Pagels essay for the catalogue accompanying the show, where the sun is always shining, and magic awaits.
Twenty-five years ago, Joseph Raffael and his wife Lannis moved to the South of France, wanting to simplify life so that Joseph could devote himself to painting without distraction. Over this quarter century, the couple, who live in a simple home overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, have created what might be called Joseph Land. Lannis planted a garden sauvage, in the midst of ancient trees and bushes and succulents, with flowers of every color of the rainbow. They created two koi ponds on the property, framed by stones the Mediterranean has washed smooth over millennia. The flowering plants matured, the carp grew large, the birds in the outdoor aviaries multiplied, and with the years, an earthly paradise blossomed. It is this paradise teeming with life force that provides the artist with his subjects: flowers, koi, birds, shells, the abundance of the gardens that surround their house.
Artist Mary Aherns View of the Joseph Raffael Spring 2013 Exhibition at Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York
New in this work is a sense of time, time passing, the urgency of the moment: a pond captured in a summer breeze, never to appear with the same shimmer or ripples again; a garden dense in foliage, with flowers peeking through a tapestry of myriad greens, a moment in springtimes warmth.
Selecting the Moment series with the garden subtitle You Cant Step Into the Same River Twice, is an indication the artist has time on his mind as he turns a new decade. These are not images of nature, these are abstractions inspired by nature, they are resplendent reflections on life, meditations on what it means to be alive. Each work is an ode to life in multi-color, jewel-encrusted passages of watercolor. These are watercolors to fall into, to roam about in and to explore. They are not quickly viewed or experienced. Every square inch is filled with rich color, interweaving squiggles, and lines and circles and facets, and juxtapositions that frolic and play with the mind and the eye, colors that cavort energetically across the paper, and cohabit joyfully. Simply stated Raffaels new work is a celebration of life.
David Pagel writes of Raffaels work:
If you come to one of Raffaels pictures of flowers or fish or water or seashells and crystals with an open mind, and believe that you have not seen it all, then its likely that you will begin to see things youve never seen before, much less articulated, imagined, or grasped in the core of your being.
Thats when the magic happens.
And thats the whole point of Raffaels patiently painted pictures of readily identifiable flora and fauna. These intensely focused images, made up of innumerable dabs, strokes, and touches of a brushs paint-saturated hairs, find freedom in discipline, or boundlessness in structure, and, in so doing, invite views to dive more deeply into the mysteries of ourselves, which, in the universe Raffael paints, have lots in common with the mysteriousness of others.
Raffael’s Education And Background
Joseph Raffael was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933.
Raffael began drawing at the age of 7. He pursued the study of art in high school, at the Brooklyn Museum, then later at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science in New York and at the Yale University School of Art under Josef Albers. He also received a Fulbright Fellowship to Florence and Rome.
He launched his first exhibition of watercolors in 1963 and has since exhibited often and widely.
Hes been the recipient of numerous awards and prizes and the subject of the full-length art book Reflections of Nature by Donald Kuspit and Amei Wallach (Abbeville Press, 1998). His work is available for viewing at many of the nations finest art institutions and museums, as well as the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York (www.nancyhoffmangallery.com),. A list of past and present exhibitions, biographical material, images of Raffaels studio, videos of the artist painting, completed work and works-in-progress are available on his Web site at www.josephraffael.com.
See more about Joseph Raffael’s story, see inside his studio, and the sources and inspiration for his work.
Joseph Raffael Painting “Joyous Moment” 2013
“Journey To The Temple” Watercolor, 2012, Video of Progress
Filed under: exhibits