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JON SCHUELER Sky as Landscape

LewAllenGalleries


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Jon Schueler Sky as Landscape

August 31 - September 30.2018 Opening Reception Friday, August 31

LewAllenGalleries Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 www.lewallengalleries.com | contact@lewallengalleries.com

cover: Darkening Day (detail), 1981, oil on canvas, 32" x 48" (o/c 1134)


Jon Schueler

Sky as Landscape There is another sky, Ever serene and fair... — Emily Dickinson My soul is in the sky. — Shakespeare

Jon Schueler sought his truth in the sky. It was there – in the most ephemeral of places – that this complicated, intense artist spent a turbulent lifetime in search of meaning and an understanding of himself. For Schueler, the sky was a place of contradiction and constant odyssey: a place where in a wartime bomber he saw the beauty of land and sea from high above, but also where fear and death were his constant companions. That journey, alternating between exhilaration and terror, indelibly inflected his extraordinary body of paintings, made during the ensuing 48 years of his career, with a sense of depth and honesty not often found in landscape painting. Of his war experience Schueler observed in his memoir Sound of Sleat: “I remember skies blushing lightly in the atmosphere, descending brightly to a reddish earth … mountain ridges fading into the horizon light. A curious vantage point for living in the sky. Most of my paintings … paintings of the sea and sky, are painted from an angle of view which I’m sure springs from those flying days.” This LewAllen Galleries exhibition of more than twenty of those paintings is entitled Sky as Landscape and presents an engaging range of works from throughout Schueler’s career, illustrating the artist’s inner vision about the sky as landscape. Finding in the sky a kind of emotional firmament, Schueler took inspiration in its visual substantiality and metaphorical possibilities. He painted images of luscious ambiguity, each a tracery of his experience, and with surfaces that move in subtle complex rhythms and hum with pulsing light and color, communicating the sky’s living energy and its transcendent power. Unlike artists such as J.M.W. Turner or John Constable who used the painted sky as a lovely element for completing landscape pictures, Schueler presents the sky as experience itself. For him, sky was nature. In his work, he aspires to express painterly equivalents of being, rather than mere seeing. His paintings are his response to the sky and all of nature conceived of as a roiling expanse of universe – what he termed an “immense continuum of birth, life and death [where] the motion of it never stops, nor does the emotion of it.” In his work, Schueler sought to resolve into images on canvas his own complex labyrinth of emotions and artistic sensibilities. The work suggests a quest for the transformative – a search for love, wisdom, grace, things that lay on the unknown side of the known. Like the sky itself, much can be 2


imagined in this effort but little can truly be known until it is found. This was Schueler’s odyssey as an artist and as a man: fearlessly pushing the edge of mystery so that meaning might be discovered. Surviving numerous missions over France and Germany as a B-17 navigator in World War II was both a blessing and a curse. Schueler lived and thus was able to devote his life to expressing a creative energy that was deep and profound, and even relentless. But there was also guilt over being the only one of his crew to miss the mission that killed the rest in a crash during training. And later, he was one of only two in his crew to survive their wartime missions. After a medical discharge and returning to civilian life in 1944, Schueler was haunted by this and it inevitably played into his complex emotions for the rest of his life. It also deepened his experience of the sky and the introspective intensity he brought to its involvement in his aesthetic expression. For the rest of his career, Schueler endeavored to sort his experiences, memories and emotions into the expressive distillations that became his paintings. Schueler was among the second-generation New York School of abstract expressionists who were known for reshaping the first generation’s uncompromising abstraction into a more emotive, descriptive visual language. Born in Milwaukee in 1916, Schueler earned a B.A. in Economics and an M.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin. After the war, he attended the California School of Fine Arts and studied with artists such as Clyfford Still, Richard Diebenkorn, and David Park. With Still’s help and encouragement, Schueler moved to New York in 1951. One can see vestiges of Stills’ influence on Schueler, in his patches of robust, unapologetic color, such as in The First Snow Cloud (1958) and Cloud over Knoydart (1957). Upon his arrival in New York City, he was introduced to Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, and Ad Reinhardt. His first two solo exhibitions in New York were at the Stable Gallery and at the Leo Castelli Gallery. His was the first solo exhibition given by Castelli to any artist. It drew positive reviews in both the New York Times and Life magazine. In 1975 the Whitney Museum staged a solo exhibition of Schueler’s work and, in its show catalog, then-director John I.H. Baur described it as possessing “swirling arrangements of pure color and light.” Though New York remained his home from 1959 until his death in 1992, Schueler found himself repeatedly drawn away from the city to the northern coast of Scotland. He had heard of the wild, isolated Scottish highlands during his time in Europe and knew instinctively that it would act as a salve for him, particularly as he continued to process his wartime experiences. He first visited the remote Scottish fishing village of Mallaig in the winter of 1957 following his artistic success in New York City, and stayed for six months. Mallaig was special for being a place where humans have made very little impact on the land, and when he arrived, Schueler was struck by a sense of being in the middle of the primordial heart of nature. He was enthralled by 3


nature’s elemental power there, its dynamic weather always in flux and the possibilities he saw for its sky to be a powerful source of inspiration for expressing nature’s ineffable, primal essence. He was spellbound by the way the sea met the craggy rocks of the Scottish coast, which produced all manner of spray, fog, and weather, and had a tremendous effect on his art. Mallaig’s sunrises and sunsets lit the sky and sea in dramatic colors, cinematic fog and dreamlike atmosphere. “I wanted to live in the middle of one of my paintings for a year,” he wrote in July 1959 about visiting the Scottish coast. “I saw clouds menacing my mind’s eye, and the rain shafts or the mist obliterating horizons and forming new forms with the clouds and landmasses blending with the sea. I chose northern Scotland as my cathedral, because for my needs at that moment, it seemed the only church that would do.” The paintings included in this Sky as Landscape exhibition exemplify these attributes. For Schueler, Mallaig was a refuge, and his luminous sky paintings were shelter from the ominous clouds of everyday life. It afforded him a clarity where, in his words, “the contradictions and confusions of sky, image and life were brought into a powerful focus,” and where the landscape lent itself to abstraction. Even after his return to New York, memories of Mallaig took on mystical significance for him. He would return for months at a time each year, and eventually acquired a studio overlooking the Sound of Sleat in 1970, living there full time until 1975. Many of the paintings here reflect his experiences in Mallaig, in addition to his view of painted image as visual representation of the sublime itself, whether depicted in misty, nearly hidden forms or tumultuous, animated color. Communicating with the language of abstraction, Schueler’s astonishing imagery evokes the changing moods of a place rather than describing its particular features. He internalized the radical variations in weather so that he might live it vividly. That experience then found its way onto his canvases – everything from plush sunsets (as in South of Sleat) to light rain or snow (Blues, Evening Storm) to a liminal fog that gently diffuses light through softly glowing tones of pink and blue (Red Sky Shadow). Treading the line between representation and nonrepresentation, Schueler’s evocations of weather, sky and the horizon focus one’s gaze upward, away from the overt forms of the land and toward the subtle substantiality of air, light and color. His art is in search of the meaning of nature and its essences, and encourages contemplation of the indefinable, powerful, and perhaps even spiritual aspects of the sky above and of nature and the infinite universe — all sources of endless inspiration for him. For Schueler, the sky was a theater, both ageless and ever-changing, and his paintings are talismans for its poignant drama. He said of his work that it “must be a search and a requiem.” 4


It is, indeed, comprised in equal parts of both. What is most remarkable, perhaps, is Schueler’s extraordinary success in finding the tangible essences out of the intangible immensity of the sky and making beautiful paintings from what the sky had to offer: its ineffability, endless variations of color and light, and the invisible force of moving air. From these, Schueler sifted the ephemeral and discovered in the sky’s ether exalted imprints of beauty – like a composer making music from the silence between the notes. In his art, Schueler bravely explored the infinite, found a sense of the real in the realm of the unreal, and resonated an empyrean sense of the sublime. Kenneth R. Marvel

Cloud Over Knoydart, 1957, oil on canvas, 23.25 x 40.25 in (o/c 57-39) 5


Grey and Yesterday's Blues, 1985, oil on canvas, 36 x 32 in (o/c 1459)

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Fantasy: Snow Cloud, II, 1968, oil on canvas, 60 x 63.5 in (o/c 68-21)


October Sun, I, 1972, oil on canvas, 14 x 16 in (o/c 289)

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Blues: Evening Storm, 1976, oil on canvas, 63 x 70 in (o/c 656)


Summer Blues Remembered, 1977, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in (o/c 829)

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Night Light, I, 1972, oil on canvas, 14 x 16 in (o/c 223)


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Northern Changes, 1983, oil on canvas, 14 x 24 in (o/c 1372)


South of Sleat, 1968, oil on canvas, 63 x 71 in (o/c 68-2)

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Loch Eishort, 1969, oil on canvas, 51 x 60 in (o/c 69-45)


Summer Storm, 1976, oil on canvas, 54 x 60 in (o/c 800) 16


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Spring, II, 1971, oil on canvas, 12 x 14 in (o/c 111)


Light and Grey Clearings, 1984, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in (o/c 1419) 18


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Gale Sound, 1981, oil on canvas, 36 x 51 in (o/c 1135)


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Skywards, 1969, oil on canvas, 34 x 58 in (o/c 69-53)


Red Sky Shadow, 1972, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in (o/c 233)

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Summer Blues, 1981, oil on canvas, 69 x 76 in (o/c 1191)


October Sun, VI, 1972, oil on canvas, 18 x 24 in (o/c 303)

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Red Sun, IV, 1971-72, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 in (o/c 202)


Light on the Sea, 1976, oil on canvas, 62.25 x 69 in (o/c 654)

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The First Snow Cloud, 1958, oil on canvas, 37 x 32 in (o/c 58-3)


Storm, 1955, oil on canvas, 46 x 48 in (o/c 55-4)

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The Strange Mist, 1968, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in (o/c 68-30)


Jon Schueler b. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1916 | d. New York, New York, 1992 EDUCATION 1938 BA in Economics at University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 1940 MA in English Literature at University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 1951 California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA

2012-13 Abstract Expressionism, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia 2007 Suitcase Paintings: Small-Scale Abstract Expressionism, Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA 1997 El Expresionismo Abstracto y La Experienca Estadouidense, catalogue by Irving Sandler, Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City, Mexico; also 1996 1988 The Impact of Scotland on Two American Artists, Jon Schueler and Daniel Lang, The Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh, Scotland 1984 Creation: Modern Art and Nature, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland 1975 Landscapes, Interior & Exterior: Avery, Rothko and Schueler, Cleveland Museum of Art, OH 1969 Whitney Museum of American Art Annual, New York, NY; also 1965, 1963, 1961, 1959, 1957 1963 Corcoran Gallery of Art Biennial, Washington, D.C.; also 1958 1960-61 Some Younger American Artists, Stable Gallery, toured: the American Federation of Arts, New York,NY 1958 Nature in Abstraction: The Relation of Abstract Paintings and Sculpture to Nature in Twentieth Century Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY 1955 Vanguard 1955: A Painter's Selection of New American Painting, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2018 Sky as Landscape, LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM 2017 University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie, WY 2016 Mallaig Heritage Center, Mallaig, Scotland Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, Inverness, Scotland Berry Campbell, New York, NY 2015 Jon Schueler: The New York Years, 1975-1981, David Findlay Jr Gallery, New York, NY 2013 Jon Schueler: Paintings from the 70s, Dean Jensen Gallery, Milwaukee, WI 2012 Jon Schueler: The Mallaig Years, 1970-75, David Findlay Jr Gallery, New York, NY 2010 Jon Schueler: The Castelli Years 1955-1959, David Findlay Jr Gallery, New York, NY 2009 Jon Schueler, Weathering Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, MO Jon Schueler: Sound of Sleat Shadows, Moray Art Centre, Findhorn, Scotland 2008 Jon Schueler: Works from the 50s and 60s, David Findlay Jr Gallery, New York, NY 2007 Liverpool Street Gallery, Sydney, Australia 2006 Jon Schueler: The Sign of the Gale, Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (touring) ACA Galleries, New York, NY; also 2002,1999,1996,1995 Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland; also 2002, 2000 2005-06 Jon Schueler: The Sound of Sleat, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland 2003-04 To the North: Paintings by Jon Schueler, City Art Centre, Edinburgh, Scotland (and touring 2004) 2002 Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York, NY; also 1999, 1991, 1989, 1987, 1986 1999-01 Jon Schueler: About the Sky, Touring retrospective exhibition organized by Sweet Briar College,VA 1991 The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland 1984 Dorothy Rosenthal Gallery, Chicago, IL; also 1981 1977 Landmark Gallery, New York, NY 1975 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY 1971 The Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland 1967 The Maryland Institute, Baltimore, MD 1963 Stable Gallery, New York, NY; also 1961, 1954 1959 Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY; also 1957

SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen, Scotland Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA Baltimore Museum of Art, MD Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Archive, Berkeley, CA Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, Inverness, Scotland Mallaig Heritage Centre, Mallaig, Scotland National Academy Museum, New York, NY National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia Neuberger Museum, SUNY, Purchase, NY New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT Redding Museum of Art, Redding, CA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, GA Union College, Schenectady, NY Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, MN West Highland Museum, Fort William, Scotland Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings, MT

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2016 Clouds, Temporarily Visible, Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, MN 2013-14 New Acquisitions, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland 2013 AB-EX/RE-CON: Abstract Expressionism Reconsidered, Nassau Co. Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, NY 30


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Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 www.lewallengalleries.com | contact@lewallengalleries.com Š 2018 LewAllen Contemporary LLC Artwork Š Estate of Jon Schueler

Jon Schueler: Sky as Landscape  
Jon Schueler: Sky as Landscape