Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent

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DAMON FREED: CALM, COOL, COHERENT March 6 - April 4, 2009 Bruno David Gallery 3721 Washington Boulevard Saint Louis, 63108 Missouri, U.S.A. info@brunodavidgallery.com www.brunodavidgallery.com Director: Bruno L. David This catalogue was published in conjunction with the exhibition Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent. Editor: Bruno L. David Catalog Designer: Yoko Kiyoi Design Assistants: Sage A. David and Claudia R. David Printed in USA All works courtesy of Bruno David Gallery and Damon Freed Artwork photos by Bruno David Gallery staff Cover Image: Damon Freed. Cracked Vessel, 2008 (Detail) Copyright Š 2009 Bruno David Gallery, Inc. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of Bruno David Gallery, Inc.


Essay by Nancy Weant Afterword by Bruno L. David Damon Freed’ Studio Notes Checklist of the Exhibition Biography


Essay by Nancy Weant 2

In his recent series “Calm, Cool, Coherent”, Damon Freed, utilizes large-scale abstract shapes to serve as repositories for his inner emotions. These expressions are released through Freed’s subtle use of color and expressive brushwork. These nonobjective paintings laden with meaning appear as irregularly-shaped colorful compositions painted on a pure white ground that are just as likely to be sliding vertically down the canvas as horizontally across it. In the artwork Damson Plum-Final Version (2008), in “Calm, Cool, Coherent” the paint appears to slide horizontally with reddish lines separating the various shades of purple. It’s as if brushwork and color bend to the shapes. Conversely, other works in this same series exhibit an overall effect of color that diminishes the hardness of the edges while drawing even more attention to the various possibilities of meaning found in the soft centers evident within each shape. Shape quickly announces itself as the essential element of this series of non-objective artworks. Each irregular shape makes its way to the very edges of the canvas. The pure white ground the shape rests upon allows for light to emerge within the painting since Freed purposely avoids using white paint for his idiosyncratic shapes. Rather than mixing acrylic paint, he builds layer upon layer of paint, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next. The pure white ground hints at the elusive idea of purity found only in nature. A burst of colors evident within each shape offers the viewer the rewards of exploring the diverse elements contained within a complex world that unfortunately too often seem to have been reduced to a point beyond recognition or connection. The pure white ground and hard-edges created by the shapes guide the viewer towards the center. Upon entering the center the viewer is allowed to gradually lose oneself within the space the artist appears to have reserved for the viewer’s gaze. Psychological underpinnings gradually surface due to the varying color effects created by the multiple layers of paint and the light materializing from within the soft centers of each shape. The contradiction between the sharp edges outlining the shape and the sensuous centers are not unlike the abundant contradictions in contemporary life where everything good has been twisted into something undesirable and everything once thought of as repugnant has become the accepted norm. In a world where endless repetition fills our daily lives, coming upon an unexpected haven offering us calmness, coolness and perhaps even some semblance of coherency is a valuable commodity not to be overlooked.


The viewer who lingers over the centers begins to intellectualize the inner workings of the mind, be it the mind of the viewer or that of artist. Taking time out to allow one’s mind to refresh itself has the benefit of giving one a new perspective on the possibilities that still exist. The potential of where a viewer may transport his mind seems without end in the galaxies of color provided for him by the artist willing to yield to his own sensibility. This allows the viewer in so he can share in something that lifts one out of oneself and into a new realm of hope. In these chaotic and uncertain times humans have a need to connect to something higher. By providing us with a sanctuary that harks back to nature, Damon Freed succeeds in reminding us of what is still available if one only bothers to take the time to notice.

--Nancy Weant Nancy K. Weant is an art historian and an adjunct lecturer in the Art and Design Department at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri. She is a frequent contributor to REVIEW, Kansas City. This essay is one in a series of the gallery’s exhibitions written by fellow gallery artists and friends.


Afterword by Bruno L. David

I am pleased to exhibit a new series of paintings by Damon Freed. “Calm, Cool, Coherent” at Bruno David Gallery is the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in Saint Louis. Freed belongs to a new generation of landscape artists whose work combines abstraction with explorations of the connection and interaction between man and nature, mind and spirit. Damon Freed’s work investigates the relationship between soft and hard edges, and an ordered way of seeing shape and form. Taoists referred to this way of thinking as “perception of the nature of things; soft and weak overcoming hard and strong.” Those who concentrate on the hard edges are attracted to strength. Those who concentrate on the soft centers are attracted to weakness. To perceive the soft, one must overcome the hard. The hard edge functions as an obstacle and the soft brushwork a void. Damon Freed’s work is influenced by classical landscape painting from China, Japan and Korea, as well as Chinese Taoist and Zen philosophy. Both Asian landscape painting and philosophy picture man within nature, not separate from it. Daily living seems to position man in conflict with his environment, but in reality, he is always in absolute harmony with the necessary push and pull of the process of nature. Freed visualizes this feeling of balance in his painting through abstraction. Shape is the formal strategy by which this meaning is expressed, and the brushwork and color bend with the shapes. The early seventeenth-century Chinese landscape painter T’ang Chih-ch’i describes the feeling: “Brushwork pertains to the refined, untrammeled style and spirit, which should be harmonious, pure, and agreeable.” Damon received his M.F.A. from Hunter College, New York, and a B.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts, New York. In 2002, he received the Juan Gonzales Award. ---Bruno L. David, Director.


Damon Freed’ Studio Notes 6

CALM, COOL, COHERENT “Our pleasure, our satisfaction, in response to a classical work of art derives in no small degree from awareness of the work’s configuration, from the clarity and coherence of its structure.” –Jules Langsner from the exhibition catalogue Four Abstract Classicists, 1959 With clarity of form, classical artwork through the ages has envisioned an aesthetic of calm cool coherence. I regard my work to be in the classical tradition, but my concern is not simply one of sound structure. The classical artist understands that to receive content from a work of art there can be no mistake in the form. Why? Because whatever feeling and emotion is being expressed is perceived through harmony of the whole. The moment one mark, color or shape looks out of place the experience becomes labored. A great joy of viewing artwork is freedom from problems, your own and other people’s.

SHAPE Shape is most important to my work. I paint equally using black, white and grey as I do in color so the issue is not color. Composition and shape are really the same in my work because the creation of the shapes and composition is happening simultaneously during the preliminary drawing stage, the first stage. Composition is the primary formal concern of all artwork. If something is off in the composition the piece fails no matter its attempt at content. The viewer is not sympathetic.


COLOR: NATURE VERSUS CULTURE Alice Aycock said to me once, “There exist the colors of nature and the colors of culture”. Never before that moment was my comprehension of color more understood. It was clear to me then as it is now what I need from color. As I understand it now, the colors of nature are deep, rich, weathered and aged. The colors of culture are flat, glossy, bright and new. Just think of car hoods, grocery aisles, road signs and neon advertisements. They shout, “Look at me! Look at me!”. Nature colors are there when you need them, for you to enter into when you like, by choice. They do not say anything. A painting that you can penetrate, that is quiet, is to walk into a space undisturbed. I do not like to be held out. I do not enjoy confrontation. I want to experience wisdom bound to centuries of old nature.

SPIRIT There is no thing more real than the spirit, for it is the life within things. We understand that no feelings have been lifted without it, yet so often it goes without regard. Unity is the very essence of spirit. When shared, its potential is wholly realized. In life as in art, we are compelled by it. Before the expression of spirit we are disarmed. What once were weapons of negative thinking, become tools for self-improvement. Just as blown leaves give form to the wind, my painting gives shape to the spirit.


ART MOVES IN CIRCLES “Sometimes it is said that art travels in a circle, but every generation must paint its own way. It is not satisfied with the black square which Malevich did. Each generation must paint its own black square.” –Alfred Barr, 1959 The course of art indeed moves in circles, many widening circles, some overlapping. The process is not evolutionary, not a linear movement toward complexity or a notion of better forms. Art reflects the needs of the culture at the time, not the culture itself. Therefore, there are times for rudimentary forms and times for sophisticated forms and times for both. If the era calls for romantic gestures, it receives them. If the need is of a classical tone, it deserves such. Should each tenant be called upon at once, each will rise. This is not to say that every generation does not attain newness, of course it does. It is to say that no form ever comes without precedent. Art is the halo of renewal. As ancient forms are polished the culture is revived.



Checklist of the Exhibition and Images


A Broader Life, 2008

Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 inches (182.88 cm x 182.88 cm)



A Broader Life (detail), 2008

Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 inches (182.88 cm x 182.88 cm)



Home, 2008

Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 inches (182.88 cm x 182.88 cm)



July Sky (Final Version), 2008

Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 inches (182.88 cm x 182.88 cm)



July Sky (Final Version) (detail), 2008 Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 inches (182.88 cm x 182.88 cm)



Blue Blood, 2008

Acrylic on canvas 21 x 21 inches (53.34 cm x 53.34 cm)



Burnt Orange, 2008

Acrylic on canvas 21 x 21 inches (53.34 x 53.34 cm)



Purple, 2008

Acrylic on canvas 21 x 21 inches (53.34 x 53.34 cm)



Cracked Vessel, 2008

Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 inches (182.88 cm x 182.88 cm)



Cracked Vessel (detail), 2008

Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 inches (182.88 cm x 182.88 cm)



Damson Plum (Final Version), 2008

Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 inches (182.88 cm x 182.88 cm)



Missouri (Final Version), 2008

Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 inches (182.88 cm x 182.88 cm)



Missouri (Final Version) (detail), 2008 Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 inches (182.88 cm x 182.88 cm)



Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent at Bruno David Gallery, 2009 (Installation View - detail)



Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent at Bruno David Gallery, 2009 (Installation View - detail)



Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent at Bruno David Gallery, 2009 (Installation View - detail)



Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent at Bruno David Gallery, 2009 (Installation View - detail)



Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent at Bruno David Gallery, 2009 (Installation View - detail)



Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent at Bruno David Gallery, 2009 (Installation View - detail)



Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent at Bruno David Gallery, 2009 (Installation View - detail)




DAMON FREED EDUCATION M.F.A. Hunter College, City University of New York B.F.A. School of Visual Arts, New York (With Honors) State Fair Community College, Sedalia Missouri SOLO EXHIBITION 2009

Damon Freed: Calm, Cool, Coherent, Bruno David Gallery, Saint Louis, MO


Gallery Selections: Small Scale Works, Tobey Fine Arts, New York Correspondence to a Single Point: A Survey of Geometric Abstraction, Tobey Fine Arts, New York Hum, Curated by Shinsuke Aso, Tobey Fine Arts, New York The Wild Bunch, Curated by Tim Rollins, White Box Gallery, New York

GRANTS/AWARDS 2003 2002 2001 2000 2000

Honors—School of Visual Arts, New York Juan Gonzales Award—School of Visual Arts, New York Fine Arts Departmental Grant—School of Visual Arts, New York Silas H. Rhodes Merit Scholarship—School of Visual Arts, New York Dr. Tony Racela Grant—State Fair Community College



ARTISTS Margaret Adams Ingo Baumgarten Dickson Beall Laura Beard Elaine Blatt Nanette Boileau Martin Brief Lisa K. Blatt Shawn Burkard Bunny Burson Carmon Colangelo Alex Couwenberg Jill Downen Yvette Drury Dubinsky Eleanor Dubinsky Maya Escobar Corey Escoto

Beverly Fishman Damon Freed William Griffin Joan Hall Takashi Horisaki Kim Humphries Kelley Johnson Howard Jones (Estate) Chris Kahler Bill Kohn (Estate) Katharine Kuharic Leslie Laskey Sandra Marchewa Peter Marcus Kathryn Neale Moses Nornberg

Patricia Olynyk Robert Pettus Daniel Raedeke Chris Rubin de la Borbolla Cherie Sampson Frank Schwaiger Charles Schwall Christina Shmigel Thomas Sleet Buzz Spector Lindsey Stouffer The Fancy Christ Cindy Tower Ian Weaver Brett Williams Ken Worley


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