Issuu on Google+

Robert Riseling Retrospective 1974-2011, A Founders’ Day Exhibition, features paintings from Riseling’s illustrious career as a painter and educator. Riseling joined the faculty of Memphis College of Art in 1974.  He taught and directed introductory studio courses and introduced hundreds of young artists to the joy and discipline of the visual arts. Many went on to successful professional careers. He founded the Horn Island excursion, and led each legendary summer adventure to the Gulf of Mexico for more than twenty years.  He guided the annual Spring Break trips, exposing students, faculty and friends to destinations that were unique, foreign, and sometimes exotic. A primary purpose in each adventure was to present his students and colleagues with landscapes to inspire introspection, reflection, and ultimately great art. As a professional artist, Riseling has been prolific, showing regularly with works in public and private collections across the nation.  Throughout his career, he has travelled extensively as a visiting artist and lecturer. Although Riseling officially retired from MCA in the Spring of 2011, he can’t keep himself away from the College.  He remains a recognizable fixture, still teaching painting and foundation courses, and making travel plans.  In recognition of his contributions and long-standing commitment to the College and its students, Riseling was honored with the distinction of Professor Emeritus. I hope this exhibition brings you as much joy and appreciation for Bob’s talent and accomplishments as it did for me. And on behalf of the College, I extend our collective thanks and appreciation for his many talents and contributions. Ron Jones President Memphis College of Art

In 1865, after having visited the Prado in Madrid, Edouard Manet described Diego Velazquez as a “painter’s painter.” This ultimate compliment—and Manet’s esteem for Velazquez is visible throughout his career—speaks to the alchemical magic of painting, the formulas for which have been a closely guarded secret throughout history, available only to the select few who are able to see through the illusions of pictorial vision. There have been others. Titian, Rembrandt, Manet himself, and Cézanne come to mind first, those chosen few who have pivoted the history of painting away from its history, toward the new and uncharted.

Green Mountain/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011

Robert Riseling Viewer’s Painter This idea of the “painter’s painter” has distracted us from another kind of painter, whose art speaks not to their brethren alone, but to us all. Rarely, if ever, have we discussed the “viewer’s painter,” that artist who is able to raise the viewer’s awareness of not only this painting, but, through it, of all painting. Bob Riseling is this kind of a painter, a painter who allows his viewers to see variously and simultaneously, backwards through the history of painting into a present that is entirely his own and a future that cannot be seen except through this same history.

There Was A Pink Cloud On Horn Island Mixed Media 1992

These, in the great traditions of twentieth-century painting, are formalist works, driven by Riseling’s richly saturated and at times anti-naturalistic palette and rigorous questioning of forms and space, forms in space, and forms of space. They are often deceptive in this manner, veiling otherwise recognizable imagery within a pared-down, elemental vocabulary of shape and planar zones of color that trouble the laws of perspectival space that have determined paintings for the past half-millenium. We are thus called upon to look longer, in search of what the works wish to reveal and what we might elicit from them. Riseling’s paintings are richly embedded with a multi-tiered history, as much a personal narrative as an observer’s retelling of the history of modern painting. Some of the earliest and most representational works take their inspiration from cemeteries in Taos and Santa Fe. Their warbling line work is as much a response to the grave markers as the shifting light of the arid New Mexican landscape. This naturalistic impulse is offset by the electric hues that outline these forms, moving these works past the quiet, meditative precedent of Georgia O’Keefe towards something more visionistic,

more contemporary. They are simultaneously weighted by the quiet of death and energized by the living, ambling movement of the artist’s hand. In the aftermath of these, we are able to see a broadening of both subject matter and treatment. More absorption, more experimentation. These middle-period works are also the product of travel, primarily to and from Memphis. There are the storefront windows, the record of a downtown abandoned and left to fend for itself. Riseling’s paintings of these windows are neither vacant nor forlorn but instead, as always, animated by geometry and color. Again and again we see the odd overlapping of windows and façade, some open at a diagonal, others intersected by paths of light. Their merger of form and color recall Clyfford Still and Ellsworth Kelly; the way in which this pairing creates a flattened, active pictorial field that leaves the eye wanting for a place to settle recalls the urban ballet one finds in Mondrian’s last works. These urban landscapes find their echo in Riseling’s depictions of the natural world. Among the most sacred, and persistent, motifs in this career is Mississippi’s Horn

Island, an annual point of arrival for over a quarter century. These works lay bare one of the great paradoxes of painting, the impossible dilemma of representing depth on a flat surface. Zones of color that spread flatly upon the canvas denote shadows cast upon a beach, piles of driftwood swept in by the tide, and the native flora scattered across the island. They are a forceful assertion that, despite their perceived abstraction, Riseling’s works are firmly tethered to the naturalistic traditions of landscape painting. This oscillation between flatness and depth, representation and abstraction, continues in his most recent work. These paintings, conceived in Vermont, extend this ongoing fascination with the landscape, searching for new ways to enunciate these essential questions of painting without sacrificing any continuity of vocabulary or syntax. New locations cause old questions to yield new answers. As has been the case throughout this career, these newest paintings rejoice in their own making. Observation and study are inflected through composition and color and the viewer is again called upon to extract from the works the whispers of place and space. Newly radiant pinks collide with the muted greens and blues of the Vermont countryside, reminding us that paintings of nature are anything but nature. This is gymnastic looking, wherein one is catapulted out of the usual expectations and offerings of the landscape genre into a space entirely different, equally traditional and new, suspended amidst the innovations of this most challenging last century of painting. They give of the same history from which they take and cause us to see that history anew. Looking at Riseling’s works can be all about surface and formalism, but they are always about much more, about seeing differently, in different places, with different results. These are paintings that reward the engaged, active viewer. This is the work of a viewer’s painter. And that is the greatest compliment that can be paid. Beale Street Landing Windows Mixed Media Triptych 1982

Adrian R. Duran Assistant Professor Area Head, Art History

Window/Patio Mixed Media 1997

Windows/Fans Acrylic on Canvas Triptych 1990

Taos Cross Acrylic on Canvas 1998 Collection of Veda Reed

Composanto De La Trinidad/Fernandez Acrylic on Canvas 1999

Beach Log #2 Acrylic on Canvas 2007

Silver Rosemary/After Katrina Acrylic on Canvas 2006

Monument/Blue Acrylic on Canvas 2003

Monument/Red Acrylic on Canvas 2003

Beach Log #1 Acrylic on Canvas 2007

Monument Family Acrylic on Canvas 2007

Pink Clouds Over Green Mountains/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011

Pattern/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011

Rust Hall Exhibition List January 3-29, 2012

E-Wall Acrylic on Canvas Triptych 1981 Beale Street Landing Windows Mixed Media Triptych 1982 Gold Window Serigraph 1983 Memphis Window Serigraph 1983 Blue Tree/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011

387 South Main #2 Acrylic on Canvas 1984 387 South Main #1 Serigraph 1984 387 South Main #2 Serigraph 1984 South Front Street Acrylic on Canvas 1986 Rosemary Shadow Acrylic & Ink on Paper 1987 Collection of Marc Riseling Composanto De La Trinidad #3 Acrylic & Ink on Paper 1987 Collection of Marc Riseling Windows/Fans Acrylic on Canvas Triptych 1990 Horn Island White Acrylic on Canvas 1990 Horn Island Gold Acrylic on Canvas 1990

Road To Johnson/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011

Horn Island Night Acrylic on Canvas 1990 There Was A Pink Cloud On Horn Island Mixed Media 1992

South Main Facade #4 Mixed Media 1996 South Main Facade #6 Mixed Media 1996 Window/Patio Mixed Media 1997 White Rosemary Acrylic on Canvas 1998 Taos Cross Acrylic on Canvas 1998 Collection of Veda Reed Composanto De La Trinidad/Flores Acrylic on Canvas 1999 Composanto De La Trinidad/Fernandez Acrylic on Canvas 1999 South Main Facade #4 Acrylic & Wood on Canvas 2002 South Main Facade #6 Acrylic & Wood on Canvas 2002 Creature From Garden Pond Acrylic on Wood, Glass Eyes 2002 Monument/Red Acrylic on Canvas 2003 Monument/Blue Acrylic on Canvas 2003 White Rosemary Serigraph 2005 Silver Rosemary/After Katrina Acrylic on Canvas 2006 Barge #1, Barge #2 Acrylic on Canvas Diptych 2007

Monument Dan, Monument Vicki Acrylic on Canvas Diptych 2007 Beach Log #1 Acrylic on Canvas 2007 Beach Log #2 Acrylic on Canvas 2007 Monument Family Acrylic on Canvas 2007 Monument Friends Acrylic on Canvas 2007 Collection of Bill Price Monument Dawn Acrylic on Canvas 2007 Monument #2 Acrylic on Canvas 2007 Road To Johnson/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011 Red Tree/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011 Pink Cloud/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011 Pink Clouds Over Green Mountains/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011 Blue Tree/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011 Green Mountain/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011 Yellow/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011 Black Storm Cloud/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011 Pattern/Vermont Acrylic on Canvas 2011


Robert Riseling Retrospective catalog