David Richard Gallery is pleased to announce, Dante’s Cardigan, a solo exhibition of new and recent paintings by Buffalo-based artist Peter Stephens and his debut presentation with the Gallery.
The presentation includes 18 paintings, in a variety of sizes from 18 inches square up to and including a painting 72 x 108 inches, that evolved from a new creative process over the past five years that changed Stephens’ studio practice and generated for him an all new visual language. Born out of the artist’s long-term interest in the fundamental physics underlying the structure and behavior of matter in the natural world, these paintings have become a synthetic abstraction of systems, patterns, sequences and random mutations derived from a set of defined parameters. The result is a series of mixed media abstractions based on the classic grid that explore color interactions and adjacencies to produce intense optical effects and challenge spatial perception.
Construction of the paintings begins with a grid of collaged commercial paint samples, which not only forms the underpainting, but also gives a slightly dimensional surface with nearly infinite possibilities for the configuration of color relationships, scale, and complexity. Overlaid on top of the underpainting is a matrix of fine lines of acrylic medium and pigment, again in numerous configurations, orientations and color combinations. The interaction of the two layers of color and pattern produces a unique aesthetic experience, one of intense optical activity produced by color blending and confounding visual perception, but also rich with cultural associations as well as art historical and design references. Some of these references are clearly derived from and a nod to Op Art, Mid-century Modernism, Color Field painting, Geometric abstraction, Pattern Painting and use of ready-made components.
Stephens is an artist based in Buffalo, New York. He studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Siena, Siena, Italy and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has been featured in solo shows at Nina Freudenheim Gallery (Buffalo), TUB Gallery (Miami), Zolla/Lieberman Gallery (Chicago), R. B. Stevenson Gallery (San Diego), Fenimore Art Museum (Cooperstown, N.Y.), Drabinsky & Friedlan Gallery (Toronto), and Bess Cutler Gallery (Los Angeles), among other venues. Stephens’s work is in several museum collections, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, and the Castellani Art Museum in Western New York, as well as the Brooklyn Museum.
Initially, Stephens work “focused on 19th century landscape painting and its dialogue with photography as a new medium.” He also “worked with imagery from pictorial photographers and the proto-modernist work of Eugene Atget to look at the way nostalgia and romanticism is codified through an overlay of historical and cultural distance.” Feeling he had fulfilled his exploration in that realm he wanted to move into abstraction yet, wanting to maintain a conceptual connection to the landscape.
Stephens began reading about space science and physical phenomenon of the natural world such that his paintings and imagery would flow from his underlying knowledge and understanding of each scientific discipline. The first new series of paintings were his “Moon” paintings from 2007 to 2008 inspired by studying the Apollo astronaut mission logs and related digitized NASA images. The largest of the resulting lunar surface paintings is in the permanent collection of the Albright-Knox Art Museum. He then turned to researching the satellite images from Mars. The images were not as clear and distinct as the Apollo images and thus pushed his practice and his new “Areopagitica" series toward more abstract imagery. A painting from this series was also acquired by the Albright-Knox Art Museum and the entire collection was presented together in 2018 at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. Further reading in physics and the structure and behavior of matter pushed his paintings further from the natural world and photographic sources towards pure non-objective abstraction. Additional scientific reading in the biological arena generated a new fascination with “random mutations” and the perturbations they generate and perpetuate in the evolution of forms, resulting in alterations in patterns and structure. Hence, where the new series of geometric paintings begin that are presented in this debut exhibition.