John Newman: Between the Literal and Nonsensical, Sculptures and Drawings, 1982-2017 Curated by Dan Nadel
Safe Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of sculptures and drawings by John Newman from the last 35 years. The seed of the exhibition is Newman’s completion of 65 drawings, for his 65 years, while in France in the summer of 2017. Newman thinks of, and titled, these drawings as Developing Old Negatives: Bringing extant images to life again. Some are drawings of existing sculptures from Newman’s 40 year career, some are speculative spaces, and others are ideas for future sculptures. Installed in the gallery’s front room, these drawings provide a roadmap to Newman’s ideas about space, structure and form.
The show begins with some of Newman’s earliest mature works, Accelerated Grimace, 1982 and Throwback, 1985, which, inspired by Japanese armor, bring sculpture off the floor and onto the wall, dynamically extending into space. These works are echoed in contemporaneous large drawings, which began as worksheets on which the artist would draw and shape his sculptural forms. Once the sculpture was off the paper, Newman went in again bringing color and new ideas into the drawings. These drawings evidence both a calligraphic hand and an attention to spatial concerns that took flight especially in the trio of 1990-91 works, which constitute real and imagined “portraits” of sculptures, sumptuously rendered in luminous magentas and oranges.
In the late 1990s, inspired by extensive traveling and the discovery of new and unexpected materials, such as extruded aluminum, a “home brew” papier-mache, and found stones, Newman began making intimate works that fall somewhere between worship objects and artifacts from some other art history, one that braids strands of surrealism, specific objects, craft, and non-Euclidian geometry. These works, which include Homespun (On a Perch), 1998 and Red and Wooden Span, 2012 have a precarious vulnerability that lets viewers in while beguiling them with their gravity defying forms. Recent works in this exhibition include A Small Monument for Heliotropism, 2017, which grounds a moveable, lighter-than-air blown acrylic canopy with a gravitationally solemn shellacked base which echoes the canopy with digitally milled circles. This sculpture, like the newest in the exhibition, The Foggy Lens Needs Adjustment, 2017, which appears to revolve around an Obsidian sphere tethering a blown acrylic “mask”, make use of an early 20th century sense of illusionism that would not be out of place in a magicians salon in 1910s Paris. Like the 65 drawings in the show, Newman’s newest works are both specific in formal design and yet elicit a wide spectrum of responses – they ask to be interrogated, mediated upon, and, marveled at.
This exhibition is accompanied by a silkscreened booklet designed and printed by Melissa Brown, with an interview with the artist by Dan Nadel and Pali Kashi.
John Newman is a New York-based artist. He was born in Flushing, New York, and received his BA from Oberlin College. He attended the Whitney Museum Study Program in 1972, received his MFA in 1975 from the Yale School of Art, and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT from 1975-78. He has mounted solo exhibitions internationally.
Newman’s sculpture, drawings, and prints are represented in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Tate Modern in London, the National Gallery in Canberra, the Alberina Museum in Vienna, among many others. His awards and residencies include the Dora Maar Residency, the Rome Prize, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Pollack-Krasner Foundation, the NEA, and a Senior Research Fulbright Grant to India.
Newman is the former Director of Graduate Studies in Sculpture at the Yale School of Art. He currently teaches at the NY Studio School and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has been commissioned to do several large-scale sculptures for the City of Richmond, VA, Dai Nippon in Tokyo, Storm King Art Center, and Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.