Gregory Gillespie: Tranfixed
November 9 – December 15 at Gallery NAGA
2012 will end, at Gallery NAGA, on a high point with the work of one of America’s most important contemporary painters, Gregory Gillespie (1936-2000). Gregory Gillespie: Transfixed is on exhibition from November 9 through December 15. A reception for the public will be held at the gallery on Friday, November 9 from 6 to 8 pm.
Gregory Gillespie began his art studies at The Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art in New York. He received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1962, was awarded a Fulbright-Hayes Grant, and received the Chester Dale Fellowship to continue his work and study at the American Academy in Rome, where he resided from 1964 to 1970. He continued to paint and show regularly in New York and Boston, and his career was interspersed with national exhibitions, which catapulted him into major institutional recognition.
The work to be exhibited at NAGA is comprised of a relatively narrow breadth of time in Gillespie’s production. Generally painted between 1995 and 2000, the work is varied and defies categorization: fantastical and spiritual landscapes, startling portraits and self-portraits, symbolic abstractions, and allegorical interiors.
Miles Unger, writing for the October 31, 1999 New York Times, remarks, “Rather than eliminating troubling elements, Mr.Gillespie holds them in front and center, the better to tame them. His is an art of precarious balances: between chaos and order, carnality and transcendent spirituality, the quotidian and the bizarre.”
Gillespie’s highly detailed portraits and self-portraits are bewitched and disturbing. Many of the subjects gaze directly at the viewer as if they are in control and omnipotent. Roberta Smith, writing Gregory’s obituary for the April 29, 2000 New York Times wrote, “Continuity was provided by a sense of unflinching scrutiny on himself; some of his strongest works are psychologically charged self-portraits. They recorded his changing appearance and shifting moods and always pivoted on his intense blue eyes, which suggested that a profound secret might be revealed if one stared hard enough.”
On the other hand, a portrait, Peg’s Grandmother, expresses tenderness. Her wisps of hair frame an almost translucent face; her eyes, unfocused, appear to be looking elsewhere.
The landscapes and interiors are intricate and brilliant examples of realist painting taken to a surrealist place. One can imagine them having begun as bucolic scenes, then Gillespie, having found them not interesting enough, pushed and pushed until they became haunted and disturbing. The paint becomes gnarly, as if it’s rotting, like flesh. Red Mountain, depicts a hilly landscape with a tree and root stretching into the ground, which looks, upon closer inspection, like a corpse. The paint stands off the canvas, twisting and turning, as if in turmoil.
Paintings by Gregory Gillespie are included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington; National Gallery of Art, Washington; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Georgia Museum of Art at Athens; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock; and many others.