Ebullience in Acrylic: Richard Timperio at Art 101
Richard Timperio: Paintings 2011 at Art 101
September 8 to October 9, 2011
101 Grand Street, between Berry Street & Wythe Avenue
Williamsburg, (718) 302-2242
Most people in the art world familiar with Richard Timperio think of him in terms of his booming laugh and outsize cowboy hat, presiding over hectic openings at his Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg. But there’s another side to Timperio, one that has been gradually maturing ever since he studied painting in the 1960s at the Cleveland Institute of Art in his hometown, his creative side. Over the years, his art evolved from pop-inspired imagery to scenes of rodeos (after a sojourn in New Mexico in the 1970s) after which the subject matter became more and more vague. The artist became less interested in social content, thus allowing his panoramas to afford purely visual satisfaction. For a while, he worked with heavy, sweeping applications of paint and sand in a gestural abstract style. A year ago, however, in a group show at Art 101, he demonstrated the beginnings of a new direction now more fully realized in his current solo exhibition at the same gallery. The best thing (of many good things) about these new paintings is that somehow they are as cheerful and ebullient as Timperio the jovial host.
Gone is the heavy, serious, gestural surface. Instead, the new surfaces are light and airy, with clear and lively reds, blues, greens and other vivid, crystalline colors. Timperio freshens up a timeless visual trope, the figure- ground relationship. First, there is an undercoat consisting of large, soft, pale rectangles, squares or circles of brightly colored acrylic, areas whose boundaries are so fluid that the paint appears to have been stained into unsized canvas. (In reality, the fluid appearance of this ground is achieved by applying it over an undercoat of white house paint mixed with a dispersant, then superimposing the colored paint while the undercoat is still wet.) Once these colors are dry, a series of smaller images are superimposed with a brush.
The “figures” in his figure- ground relationship are sometimes circles or discs or squiggles. At their best, these curvilinear elements are perfectly delightful, for example in the aptly-named Turquoise Wheel. Even more effective, however, are the larger number of paintings in this show that employ congeries of lean little rectangles for their figures—sometimes outlined with strips of paint, sometimes surrounded with nothing more than a pencil-narrow line, but in any event dancing in an energetic fashion in the center of the field. If the rectangles are predominantly vertical, the picture usually follows suit, as for example in Jazz Blocker, a smaller work on paper, whereas a painting where the rectangles are mostly horizontal, most notably in Sunliner, an excitingly jazzy, larger picture on canvas, the composition is horizontal. Not all of this show is at the same level of intensity. Since Timperio has been working longer with the smaller pieces on paper, a higher proportion of these works, unsurprisingly, come off. As a whole the show is simply lots of fun and pleasure, easy to come away from with a smile.