Dennis Congdon
Curated by Stanley Whitney
June 1 - July 6th 2013
Opening reception: April 27, 6-8pm

Dennis Congdon received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and his MFA from the Yale School of Art. He traveled to Italy and France in 1982, returning to Rome two years later as a recipient of a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. He has painted in Chicago, teaching at the School of the Art Institute and in Philadelphia, teaching at the Tyler School of Art. Since 1986 he has been on the faculty of the RISD Painting Department. Congdon received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002. He has shown his work nationally throughout his career, and this marks his first solo exhibition in New York City.

The artist thanks the RISD Professional Development Fund for its support of the photography of this exhibition.

American painter Stanley Whitney was born in 1946 in Philadelphia and has been exhibiting his work since 1970. He received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and his MFA from Yale University. His work has been shown at musejms including the American Academy of Art and Letters, New York; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach; and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. In Europe, solo gallery exhibitions have been mounted in such cities as Berlin, Brussels, Vienna, and Rome. He lives and works in New York and is represented by Team Gallery.


Using stencil templates made as mine are is predicated on a lost original. The original drawing is there in reference, but lost now and irretrievable. The drawing precedes the painting and functions  as an armature might for a sculptor in clay or a sinopia for a fresco painter. But rather than be entirely underneath I have used the stencil to put the painting's armature or sinopia on top.

In our world of billboards and pop-ups we view things fast and slow and images have a wide variety of claim on our memory. So much does not stay with us, so much is lost and irretrievable. But one day I remember like it was yesterday. We drove down from Naples to Pompeii and spent the day looking at wall paintings in the villas of the city. We decided to drive up Vesuvius before we left and in our beat-up van we spiraled up and up and bit by bit, band by band, we left everything fertile and green behind. At the top we walked out into the ash cone which I remember to have been smoking. In an unearthly collection of gray colors we wandered around circling slowly in an Antonioni film.

One's own past work is like any landscape in that it is different every time you go there. Looking back on my most unplanned and unruly project in a world of billboards and pop-ups I think I could say that where Cezanne wanted to paint Poussin after Nature, I can say I want to paint Poussin after the Brillo boxes.


I am very pleased to introduce Dennis Congdon to CUE. Dennis is a very special, talented and deserving painter who I have known for more than 30 years. Over that time, we have had numerous conversations about painting, the history of painting, painting technique, as well as how one goes about the teaching of painting. Dennis and I were professors together at Tyler School of Art before he became a vital part of the RISD Painting Department. Dennis is a rare individual who has been able to be an outstanding art educator while maintaining a cutting edge studio practice.

The series of paintings that Dennis will be showing at CUE are part of an ongoing series that began when he was a fellow at the American Academy in Rome many years ago. His work deals with Rome as a modern city as well an ancient metropolis. The paintings occupy both of these spaces, contemporary and ancient. Having lived in Rome myself for five years, I have a real sense of what Dennis is involved with Rome being a city where past and present are so intertwined they are inseparable.

Looking at these paintings, you see both the color and the heat of Rome. You see the weather, the landscape, the old, the new. You see the things sticking out of the ground, you see the vegetation. In these paintings you bump into the surprise of ancient Rome everywhere. It moves from the street to the buildings. In one painting, he has pieces of stacks of ancient columns, and in another you see fragments of faces, fragments of painting, exotic plants, there is a hand. In some places it's just a color or a mark. But in all the paintings, they are packed with information and layered just like Rome. We see Dennis has a great skill as a draftsman. New Rome is built on top of Ancient Rome. In one painting he has what appears to be a random stacking of paintings. This imagery could refer to Rome or it could refer to the end of the year studio clean up in an art school of the Western World. There is brightness, a freshness, a humor in the work that is just Dennis Congdon. Yet, there is a seriousness, a dedication, a work ethic and great knowledge. I think people will find the work very inspiring and joyous, as well as intellectual and fun to look at. As Dennis says, he wants to paint Poussin after the Brillo boxes.  And he does. 


  YOUNG ART CRITICS: Jennifer Coates on Dennis Congdon