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PALAEMON: A Survey of Paintings by Jon Imber


PALAEMON A Survey of Paintings by Jon Imber May 1 – June 15, 2013

CURATED BY ELIZABETH HOY ACCOMANYING ESSAY BY WILLIAM CORBETT GODWIN-TERNBACH MUSEUM, QUEENS COLLEGE, CUNY


Published in conjunction with the exhibition Palaemon: A Survey of Paintings by Jon Imber at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, CUNY May 1 – June 15, 2013 The exhibition was made possible through the support of the Fowler Arts Collective and Friends of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum. Essayist: William Corbett, introduction: Elizabeth Hoy, editors: Luke Degnan photographs and design: Elizabeth Hoy Copyright Š Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, CUNY. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum. Godwin-Ternbach Museum Queens College, CUNY 405 Klapper Hall 65-30 Kissena Boulevard Flushing, New York 11367 www.qc.cuny.edu/godwin_ternbach


INTRODUCTION This display of over 40 paintings celebrates 35 years of discovery and experimentation by Jon Imber, moving from images of figuration through landscape to abstraction. This exhibition marks a return to New York for Imber. Born in Nassau County, NY in 1950 and educated at Cornell University, Imber began his career with landscape paintings and drawings of upstate New York. After graduating with an MFA from Boston University in 1977, where he studied with Philip Guston, Imber was offered his first important show at Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum in 1978. Shortly after, Imber started exhibiting at Nielsen Gallery, Boston’s top gallery. He received rave reviews, numerous awards, and was sought after by museums and collectors. Rather than resting on the success of his figurative paintings, Imber challenged himself and tackled new material and new subject matter. His focus shifted to portraits, then to large, studio landscapes, then to figures in landscapes, then to plein air landscapes, and finally to landscapes on the edge of abstraction. Throughout these changes he has maintained a unique style of gestural brush strokes and an intimate sense of knowing his subject that goes beyond observation. Imber’s work references not only the Abstract Expressionists of the last century but also artists of the Venetian School in the 16th century, with their mastery of light and color. The artist's influences range broadly from Cezanne and Van Gogh to the frescoes at Pompeii, from medieval cathedral sculpture to Matisse and Beckman. Like the Venetians and the Impressionists, Imber believes in color over design. With his judicious application of paint, using the processes of layering and blending, as well as scraping away, Imber achieves images alive with glowing richness. His influences reflect the tensions he plays with in his own work: personal vision versus the material of paint, content versus form. Last year Imber was diagnosed with ALS, a neurodegenerative disorder. As he lost the use of his right hand and arm, Imber persevered and trained himself to paint with his left hand. The most recent paintings on exhibit were made in this manner. Now the progression of the disease is such that Imber’s left hand is beginning to fail. In some of the newest work, Imber has returned to painting portraits, examining mortality and legacy through images of relationships between father, son, and mentor. Imber’s credits include teaching at RISD, SVA in NYC, Mass Art, and currently Harvard University where he has taught drawing for twenty-seven years. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and acquired by major collectors and cultural institutions, including the Fogg Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the New Orleans Museum of Art. The Alpha Gallery in Boston, MA, Greenhut Gallery in Portland, ME, and Watson Gallery in Stonington, ME represent the artist. Elizabeth Hoy, Guest Curator


Tiger Lily and Sunflower 2008 Oil on canvas 68 x 68 inches


Spring Totems 2010 Oil on canvas 68 x 56 inches


Mushroom Anchor (On the Pier), 1994, oil on linen, 60 x 66 inches


Portrait of Harold Imber (Artist’s Father) 1982 Oil on canvas 66 x 54 inches


Flying, 1998, oil on linen, 60 x 78 inches


Bons Temps Rouler 2013 Oil on canvas 60 x 30 inches


Self Portrait 2013 Oil on canvas 66 x 28 inches


Afternoon on Eagle Island 1998 Oil on linen 72 x 60 inches


Portrait of Philip Guston 2012 Oil on canvas 66 x 54 inches


The Letter 1993-94 Oil on linen 68 x 60 inches


Memory (Father and Son) 1991 Oil on canvas 80 x 60 inches


Jill’s Garden 2009 Oil on panel 48 x 48 inches


Lantern in the Snow 2006 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches


Mussel Shoals and Seaweed 2011 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches


Tiger Lily 2011 Oil on panel 18 x 18 inches


Dandelions and Mussels 2000 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches


Low Tide 2004 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches


Mussels and Crabs, Blue Island 2001 Oil on panel 36 x 36 inches


Sail 2011 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches


Shells and Barnacles on Blue, Abstracted 1999 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches


Penobscot 2000 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches


Rocks, Sand Beach 1997 Oil on panel 32 x 22 inches


Upside Down Guy (Falling Painter) 1979 Oil on canvas 63 x 56 inches


Happy Couple 1978 Oil on panel 16 x 12 inches


Lust I 1979 Oil on panel 16 x 12 inches


Upbringing 1979 Oil on panel 16 x 12 inches


Upside Down Guy, Original 1975 Oil on canvas 24 x 22 inches


Self Portrait (at 57) With Flapdoodles 2008 Oil on panel 24 x 24 inches


Self Portrait 2008 Oil on panel 24 x 24 inches


Pier and Island II 1995 Oil on panel 16 x 12 inches


Self Portrait, Silverhill VII, 1995, oil on panel, 20 x 30 inches


Self Portrait (Winter), 1995, oil on panel, 20 x 30 inches


Gabriel’s Dream 1994 Oil on panel 30 x 20 inches


Gabe the Bullfighter with Flapdoodles (El CordobĂŠs de Somerville) 1995 Oil on panel 28 x 20 inches


Sacrosanctus Vetustas (Gabe) 1996 Oil on panel 28 x 20 inches


Armillary, 1997, oil on linen, 39 x 45 inches


The Nap, 1997, oil on canvas , 51 x 102 inches


Ballycastle, #7 2002 Oil on panel 24 x 24 inches


Ballycastle, #6 2002 Oil on panel 24 x 24 inches


Morning at Windswept 2006-09 Oil on panel 36 x 36 inches


My Attic 2009-12 Oil on panel 46 x 46 inches


Stonington Harbor 2008 Oil on panel 36 x 36 inches


Blue Hill Fair, 2010, oil on panel, 30 x 60 inches


Palaemon 2005 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches


JON IMBER: YOUNGER THAN THAT NOW By William Corbett When I met Jon Imber over thirty-five years ago,the two modern American artists in his pantheon were Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston, his professor at Boston University. Jon’s painting life has been shaped by his response to the work of these two giants. Jon’s paintings from the late 1970s through the 1980s took their inspiration from the monumental, sculptural qualities, the grounded weight of late Guston paintings. Jon worked from observation and memory to bring this force to real people, his parents and lovers, his distant relative Naftali Herz Imber (author of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva), and with singular success to Guston. Jon’s portrait of Guston rises up the canvas; you must look up to him as you do to a hero, more in admiration and respect than in trembling awe. Jon’s Guston is a debt paid: a command, a salute, but a move forward—the lineage continues. During those years Jon lived and worked on the first floor of a two-story square brick building off Somerville’s Davis Square. The basement of his building had been a screw factory and on the corner of Jon’s street stood Ray’s, a store that sold cigarettes, milk, and sneakers. I remember the studio as having no natural light. In that cave-like studio, Jon photographed Guston, myself, and my wife Beverly on Guston’s last visit to Boston in 1980. Jon Imber is the one artist I know who married into his art. The freedom implicit in his landscape and flower paintings, brush stroke and image, begins to take hold in Maine, Jill’s home, and the home of Jon’s heart. He did not embrace this freedom at once. His paintings of hawsers, lobster buoys, anchor chains and boat gear now look like a farewell nod to Guston, late Guston in which the master piled natural forms—cherries in a nod to Chardin’s strawberries—and geometric shapes arranged with a startling muscular logic. Jon Imber is the one artist I know who married into his art. The freedom implicit in his landscape and flower paintings, brush stroke and image, begins to take hold in Maine, Jill’s home, and the home of Jon’s heart. He did not embrace this freedom at once. His paintings of hawsers, lobster buoys, anchor chains and boat gear now look like a farewell nod to Guston, late Guston in which the master piled natural forms—cherries in a nod to Chardin’s strawberries—and geometric shapes arranged with a startling muscular logic.


Jon Imber is the one artist I know who married into his art. The freedom implicit in his landscape and flower paintings, brush stroke and image, begins to take hold in Maine, Jill’s home, and the home of Jon’s heart. He did not embrace this freedom at once. His paintings of hawsers, lobster buoys, anchor chains and boat gear now look like a farewell nod to Guston, late Guston in which the master piled natural forms—cherries in a nod to Chardin’s strawberries—and geometric shapes arranged with a startling muscular logic. It is at this point that their son Gabriel enters his father’s paintings, asleep and carried, see Winter Self Portrait (1994) and Holding Gabriel (1994). There is a sequence of family portraits that settle into this new life and landscape, complete with the family dog Aretha. Jon begins to paint outdoors every Maine summer, and his other master, Willem de Kooning, liberates his brush. These paintings want the moment, an Eden of fresh air and light, bee hum, breeze stirred petals, and the parts of flowers that cannot be named yet Jon’s brush describes. He now works small to great effect and summons up the Maine landscape in horizontal paintings. His brush dances and darts, trails and drips, all wristy sweep. He swipes in blocks of light and brushy trees. Overall these paintings evoke a dream of now. At some point Jon began to paint en plein air, upstate New York landscapes, the marsh and river around Concord’s Audubon Sanctuary, recording tangled undergrowth where he found it. I remember a tractor ploughing its furrow over a hill, silent country roads. At about the same time, he created small portraits, especially a knockout one of his painter-friend Helen Homer. I kick myself that I did not buy that picture or wheedle it out of Jon. Over the years I reviewed Jon’s shows as they came along at Nina Nielsen’s Newbury Street gallery. He liked it when I used the phrase “licks of paint” to describe his brushwork. I also remember a visit to Jon’s new Somerville studio. He was at work on a self-portrait, a mirror propped near his easel. “Sometimes I have to use it,” he shrugged, “because I forget what my nose looks like.” In 1990 Jon’s life and art began to change course. The life-change happened when Jon married the painter Jill Hoy in the backyard of a friend’s home in Deer Isle, Maine. The art-change took place gradually and is still evolving. You can see the beginnings of this new course in the Boston University show curated by Katherine French, The World As Mirror: Paintings by Jon Imber 1978-1998. At some point Jon began to paint en plein air, upstate New York landscapes, the marsh and river around Concord’s Audubon Sanctuary, recording tangled undergrowth where he found it. I remember a tractor ploughing its furrow over a hill, silent country roads.


At about the same time, he created small portraits, especially a knockout one of his painter-friend Helen Homer. I kick myself that I did not buy that picture or wheedle it out of Jon. Over the years I reviewed Jon’s shows as they came along at Nina Nielsen’s Newbury Street gallery. He liked it when I used the phrase “licks of paint” to describe his brushwork. I also remember a visit to Jon’s new Somerville studio. He was at work on a self-portrait, a mirror propped near his easel. “Sometimes I have to use it,” he shrugged, “because I forget what my nose looks like.” In 1990 Jon’s life and art began to change course. The life-change happened when Jon married the painter Jill Hoy in the backyard of a friend’s home in Deer Isle, Maine. The art-change took place gradually and is still evolving. You can see the beginnings of this new course in the Boston University show curated by Katherine French, The World As Mirror: Paintings by Jon Imber 1978-1998. Looking back I see Jon taking his first steps into a new world in “Escape From Deer Isle.” The naked figures resemble Picasso’s classical characters in their sensual roundedness, but the action and mood could derive from Maurice Sendak. This is a picture of lust, stealth, and sexy fears as woman chases man, the flowers of seduction thrust toward him by her outstretched arms. The painting quivers with delight and the risky turn-on of illicit freedom. You can’t say no even though you have no idea what you are escaping into. At an opening one March night, Jon and I, together with and the Fogg Museum’s then curator Harry Cooper, talk about Jon’s paintings, surrounded by them on the staircase of Boston’s Psychoanalytic Institute. Although I cannot recall a word we said or any of the comments from the audience, it struck me as odd that the paintings presented were the most resistant to analysis. Their spirit is evoked in the words of Jon’s favorite poet, Bob Dylan: “But I was so much older/ then/ I’m younger than that now.” As Guston and de Kooning walked out of Guston’s 1970 Marlborough Gallery show, Guston began to feel tremors of discontent. De Kooning too must have picked up the same vibes. He turned to Guston, and with a hand on his shoulder, said some encouraging words ending with, “It’s all about freedom.” De Kooning had put into words what Guston had felt—the freedom to do as he pleased no matter his surprise at the outcome. Jon Imber’s current paintings are born of a similar allegiance to the one standard every artist of quality must follow, freedom.


CHECKLIST Palaemon: A Survey of Paintings by Jon Imber

1.

Tiger Lily and Sunflower, 2008 Oil on canvas 68 x 68 inches

7.

Self Portrait, 2013 Oil on canvas 66 x 28 inches

Spring Totems, 2010 Oil on canvas 68 x 56 inches

8.

Afternoon on Eagle Island, 1998 Oil on linen 72 x 60 inches

3.

Mushroom Anchor (On the Pier), 1994 Oil on linen 60 x 66 inches

9.

Portrait of Philip Guston, 2012 Oil on canvas 66 x 54 inches

4.

Portrait of Harold Imber, 1982 Oil on canvas 66 x 54 inches

5.

Flying, 1998 Oil on linen 60 x 78 inches

11.

Memory (Father and Son), 1991 Oil on canvas 80 x 60 inches

6.

Bons Temps Rouler, 2013 Oil on canvas 60 x 30 inches

12.

Jill’s Garden, 2009 Oil on panel 48 x 48 inches

2.

10.

The Letter, 1993-94 Oil on linen 68 x 60 inches


13. 14.   15.   16.   17.   18.   19.

20.

Lantern in the snow, 2006 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches Mussel Shoals and Seaweed, Dawn,2011 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches Tiger Lily, 2011 Oil on panel 18 x 18 inches Dandelions and Mussels, 2000 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches Low Tide, 2004 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches Mussels and Crabs, Blue Island, 2001 Oil on panel 36 x 36 inches Sail, 2011 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches Shells and Barnacles on Blue, Abstracted, 1999 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches

21.   22.    23.   24.   25.   26.   27.    28.

Penobscot, 2000 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches Rocks, Sand Beach, 1997 Oil on panel 32 x 22 inches Upside Down Guy (Falling Painter), 1979 Oil on canvas 63 x 56 inches Happy Couple, 1978 Oil on panel 16 x 12 inches Lust I, 1979 Oil on panel 16 x 12 inches Upbringing, 1979 Oil on panel 16 x 12 inches Upside Down Guy, Original, 1975 Oil on canvas 24 x 22 inches Self Portrait, 2008 Oil on panel 24 x 24 inches


29. 30.   31.   32.   33.   34.

35.   36.

Self Portrait (at 57) with Flapdoodles, 2008 Oil on panel 24 x 24 inches Pier and Island II, 1995 Oil on panel 16 x 12 inches Self Portrait (Silverhill VII), 1995 Oil on panel 20 x 30 inches Self Portrait (Winter), 1995 Oil on panel 20 x 30 inches Gabriel’s Dream, 1994 Oil on panel 30 x 20 inches Gabe the Bullfighter with Flapdoodles (El Cordobés de Somerville), 1995 Oil on panel 28 x 20 inches Sacrosanctus Vetustas (Gabe), 1996 Oil on panel 28 x 20 inches Armillary, 1997 Oil on linen 39 x 45 inches

37. 38.   39.   40.   41.   42.   43.   44.

The Nap, 1997 Oil on canvas 51 x 102 inches Ballycastle, #6, 2002 Oil on panel 24 x 24 inches Ballycastle, #7, 2002 Oil on panel 24 x 24 inches Morning at Windswept, 2006-09 Oil on panel 36 x 36 inches My Attic (Early in the Spring), 2009-12 Oil on panel 46 x 46 inches Stonington Harbor, 2008 Oil on panel 36 x 36 inches Blue Hill Fair, 2010 Oil on panel 30 x 60 inches Palaemon, 2005 Oil on panel 30 x 30 inches

Palaemon: A Survey of Paintings by Jon Imber  

Exhibition catalogue for Palaemon: A Survey of Paintings by Jon Imber at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, CUNY, May 1 – June 15,...

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