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Richard Timperio (1946-2018)

Richard Timperio (1946-2018)
Richard Timperio: End of the Trail is the first show of the artist’s work at the gallery he founded in 1999. The exhibition will include paintings and drawings from 1980 to the present year selected from a wide body of work. 
Timperio moved to Williamsburg in 1979. He set up a studio and quickly became engaged in the rapidly forming artist community, staging shows at a popular local restaurant, Planet Thailand. In a building on the south side of Bedford Avenue, he opened a gallery aptly named Sideshow— well aware of its outsider status. There he mounted as many as 200 exhibitions mixing emerging young artists, such as Lori Ellison and Chris Martin, with more established painters and sculptors including Jonas Mekas, Larry Poons and Thornton Willis. Becoming a pillar of the art scene in Williamsburg,  Sideshow also provided a crucial counterpoint to the market-geared gallery system.  Memorably, he held “the big show,” an annual invitational that grew to include nearly 600 artists in 2017, many of them under-recognized.  Sideshow too, provided an informal meeting place for artists as well as anyone who walked in off Bedford Avenue. It’s doors were often open in the late evening. Timperio’s support of artists was reciprocal, the constant presence of art and artists, informed his own practice.  

Born and raised in Cleveland, he attended the Art Institute of Cleveland where he studied with Julian Stanczak, most associated with “op art.” He arrived in New York in 1969 but retreated to New Mexico in 1973, to focus on painting. He later stated that living in the Southwest had heightened his sense of light, color, and space: “the vast landscapes, spectacular sunsets, and the extremely crisp and bright light of that region became part of my inspiration.” There he also experienced Native American culture, notably the ritual art of sand painting, which impressed him for the trance-like state of the maker. This would also inspire his working methods. 

He returned to New York in 1977 where by his own description, he sought to create, “pop imagery with a fine artist´s sensibility.” He wanted art to be as accessible and relevant as rock-and-roll. At this time, he made a living by using his extraordinary skill as a political satirist and illustrator.  The earliest work in the exhibition is exemplary of both endeavors. End of the Trail, 1980 depicts a Native-American standing atop a 1950s bull-faced Buick, with a mountainous landscape in the distance. The figure´s physical strength is held up to that of General Motors, a bulwark of corporate America. End of the Trail was created in the same year that his work appeared on the cover of National Lampoon, a parody featuring Jimmy Carter, Jerry Brown and Ted Kennedy, the Democratic contenders for the Presidential nomination, each trying to fit into a donkey costume. 

Throughout the 1980s, he was increasingly drawn to color, paint and to color-field and lyrical abstract painting.  “I moved away from imagery. It was no longer important. The relationship of the paint to the canvas became my primary concern. My influences were derived from the work of Hans Hoffmann, Morris Louis, Jules Olitski, Larry Poons and Dan Christensen.” (Poons and Christensen were also close friends). While embracing the methods of color-field, his expanses of color and poured surfaces in Peach Foam Red Mark, of 1984, also bring to mind his Southwestern experience of open space and light. By the 1990s, in Untitled (Red Sand Painting) he recalls the meditative practice of sand painting, both in the use of brilliantly pigmented sand and in his method. He stated:  “I reach far within myself, without the burden of thoughts and action…I adjust to what’s happening…” 

His final works are unsullied and tend to clarity and a reduction of form, color and gesture. Timperio keeps his hand present, while showing restraint. In Lincoln County, a splendid work of 2012, the artist resists pure geometry in favor of imperfectly stacked rectangular forms composed of transparent skeins of color which sometimes overlap. The canvas is open and infused with a fresh, crisp light. As in the other works on display, Timperio achieves a level of control that nonetheless allows the paint to speak freely. He leads the viewer to a quiet but arresting event, devoid of false sentiment but full of life.  He will be missed.

Edye Weissler


Thanks to:  Brooklyn Rail, Handmade Frames and good friends for helping with the exhibition.

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