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This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the January 2, 2002
edition of U.S.
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A Raymond Retrospective
About 50 years ago, David Raymond’s first solo art
exhibition in New York City was reviewed positively in the New York
Times. The critic wrote of having the impression of meeting a
of artists, instead of one," and went on to cite Raymond’s variety
and inventiveness. That view was prophetic, a harbinger of the five
decades to follow.
"A Collection of Festive and Celebratory Art," a retrospective
exhibition of the work of David Raymond, who died last September at
age 75, opens at the Montgomery Center for the Arts, Skillman, opens
with a reception Sunday, January 6, and runs through February 10.
Raymond, who painted for about 60 years and taught drawing and
for half that time, lived in Princeton for 30 years, and was a member
of the Princeton Artists Alliance (PAA) from around the time of its
inception in 1989 to the end of his life.
An admirer of Raymond’s work recently called him "a wonderer,"
explaining that his habit of saying "what if" often led
to the art he produced. To an art colleague, Raymond’s chief quality
as an artist was that he was always searching, always trying different
things. Would-be summaries of Raymond’s paintings as "chromatic
abstractions," or "illusionistic trompe l’oeil" or even
"the power of primary shapes on optical fields using acrylics
on canvas" — don’t begin to explain the magnetism of his art.
In an interview in his Princeton home studio a few years ago, Raymond
talked about his life and his work — much of which was on view
in his home and in his light-filled working space upstairs. A tall,
fit man with white hair and thick eyebrows that overhung the frames
of his glasses, he led a walking tour of his paintings, which in turn
reflected his wide-ranging art interests. The studio’s white walls
served perfectly for display of his exciting, colorful, abstract
During one period, Raymond’s work featured conical shapes of different
sizes, sometimes upright, or tilting, or even curving. Although their
graduated colors could look airbrushed, the cones were actually
by strips of tape and painted with rollers. Some color combinations
nearly sizzled in intensity: tones of electric blue on a red ground.
At the very least, they vibrated, and their futuristic titles, like
"Zones and Sectors," matched their otherworldly and slightly
Those paintings, Raymond said, were made in a time when he wanted
to eliminate any sign of the painting process; he wanted the work
to look "manufactured." Fittingly, he favored industrial and
geometric shapes. Though he had started out years before as an artist
who enjoyed manipulating paint, he said he "got conceptual and
self-conscious" about the act of painting. "I think I was
trying hard not to be emotional," he added — despite the hot
colors he was using.
At another time, his interest shifted to space. He
with jagged, irregular frames that provided real depth — three
dimensions on the outside. "That has you suspend your disbelief
about the painting," he explained, for the painting itself
trompe l’oeil elements that gave only the illusion of depth
in a two-dimensional space. Showing how he had broken up the
and shifted the space in another work in progress, Raymond said,
not sure where my observing eye is" — and that was good
he wanted to create "ambiguous space that you can’t quite
with more than one point of view.
At first glance, string seems to play a part in some of Raymond’s
paintings, its bright line cutting across and above the planes below.
It’s not string, though, but his continued use of tape, coupled with
his color sense, that facilitates creation of the faux string. Once
more, there’s the suggestion of depth: a pronounced three-dimensional
effect in two dimensions.
By the 1990s, Raymond was moving back toward "brushiness"
and more painterly qualities. His newest work was "still refined
and hard-edged, but it was getting to be a little more open about
the space," he said. "Even though there’s modeling and
there’s no illusion of three-dimensionality. These pieces are more
about paint than illusion."
Once more intent on paint-handling, as he had been much earlier in
his career, he began to incorporate images of buildings he liked into
his work, sometimes via collage. This work in figuration led to his
1997 "Elegies" exhibition at New York’s Phoenix Gallery, which
had long represented him. The show included nocturnal boardwalk scenes
that were both representational and haunting.
Agreeing with a visitor that some of his later work suggests a time
after everything’s gone, Raymond laughingly declared, "That’s
very much my world: unpeopled and post-something!" The melancholy,
elegaic qualities in music, poetry, life appealed to him, he said,
agreeing on "poignant" as an apt word for the CDs he listened
to in his studio — works by Satie, Faure, Chopin, Rachmaninoff.
Already on record for enjoying contradictions, Raymond would have
seen no incongruity between his preferred mood and his vibrant
"I want to bring together contradictions," he said. "Maybe
if I paint big enough, I may be able to put them all together —
everything I’m interested in: photo-realist and heavy painterly
some reference to reality and no reference to reality; color and no
color. If I could do that, I’d be satisfied — maybe."
Born in Brooklyn and raised in New York City, Raymond saw van Gogh’s
"Starry Night" at the Museum of Modern Art at age 16, and
decided then on painting as his way to express feelings. His
study at the Art Students League was interrupted by World War II,
though even while in the Army Air Corps, he used wall paint for murals
of B-24’s in combat. He returned to the Art Students League for study
with German artist George Grosz.
From the mid-1940s until around 1960, Raymond lived in the Village,
starting out in a $12-a-month cold-water flat. His neighbors included
Paul Newman, then just beginning to be noticed; Norman Mailer was
often sighted on the street. Raymond worked as a tennis pro and held
down other jobs to support his art, and he earned academic credentials
for making and teaching art: a bachelor’s from Brooklyn College;
from Hunter College, and PhD from New York University, where he also
taught for a while, besides writing art criticism. Raymond taught
college drawing and painting for about 30 years in all, most of that
time at New Jersey’s William Paterson University.
Raymond realized after a show in 1989 that he was finally free to
do only the kind of work he wanted to do, with no need to worry about
producing art to sell. He retired from teaching in 1991. On the good
days from then on, he could "wake up with a vision of what I want
to paint, and spend all day working toward that dimly remembered dream
His work, he said, allowed him to "dip into my private world that
is accessible through painting. When I paint, I access the community
of painters, those who came before me, my contemporaries, and
I imagine, those to come."
— Pat Summers
the Arts , 1860 House, 124 Montgomery Road, Skillman, 609-921-3272.
Opening reception for "A Collection of Festive and Celebratory
Art," on view to February 10. Pat Martin, an abstract artist based
in New Hope and a member of the Princeton Artists Alliance, gives
a gallery talk at 2 p.m. Martin’s video of her visit with David
in his studio was among the sources consulted for this story. Free.
Sunday, January 6, 1 to 4 p.m.
"Facing the Truth: The Art of the Portrait," an international
group exhibition of paintings, drawings, photographs, and prints by
more than a dozen artists from Europe and the U.S. To January 12.
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Mel Leipzig, paintings and studies, a show curated by students. All
proceeds go directly to PHS art programs. Monday to Friday, 3 to 5
p.m. To January 14.
"Artista Cuba," contemporary Cuban folk art from the
of Jorge Armenteros who has been studying and collecting Cuban art
since 1996. Works from the fine art world as well as rustic art made
of found materials. "At its best, Cuban folk art is vivid,
sensual, and inspiring. In it, you will find a purity of appreciation
for light, color, and life’s simple pleasures," says Armenteros.
of Stone: Roman Sculpture in the Art Museum" and "Pliny’s
Cup: Roman Silver in the Age of Augustus;" to January 20. Tuesday
to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours of the
collection every Saturday at 2 p.m.
Also "Camera Women," a selective survey of the history of
photography from the perspective of the woman photographer, organized
by Carol Armstrong. It includes works by Julia Margaret Cameron, Anna
Atkins, Gertrude Kasebier, Tina Modotti, Sherrie Levine, Cindy
and others. And "Contemporary Photographs." Both shows to
609-258-3184. "Not for Myself Alone: A Celebration of
Writers," the debut show for the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Collection
of Jewish-American Writers that ranges from the early 19th century
to the present. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and
noon to 5.
The exhibit includes manuscripts, such as a draft of a poem by Stanley
Kunitz, letters by Hannah Arendt, Nathanael West, Clifford Odets,
Lionel Trilling and Susan Sontag, and photographic portraits of the
In the lobby: "The Japanese Print," an exhibit curated by
Alfred Bush. To January 31.
Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Making Paths," paintings by
Ley Breuel, a Princeton artist who comes to painting from a career
in design and illustration, most notably with Walt Disney Design.
Her interest is in representing paths of human life "some replete
with roots, fear, stumbling stones, steep climbs; others alive with
peace, compassion, comfort." Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday,
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Reception is January
16, at 4:30 p.m., for the show that runs to February 1.
"Giant Exhibit of Miniature Art," annual show featuring more
than 200 works by 25 artists and featuring Florida artist Peggie
Gallery hours are Wednesday 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday mornings,
and by appointment. To February 1.
"The Empty Sky," a photography exhibition by Donna Clovis
based on the World Trade Center disaster, as she experienced it as
a commuter from Princeton Junction to NYU. To January 5.
"The Three M’s: Marge, Marguerite, and Molly," featuring works
by Trenton artists Marge Chavooshian, Marguerite Dorenbach, and Molly
Merlino. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To January 6.
609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition. Open Tuesday through Sunday,
10 a.m. to 9 p.m., year round; Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission
is $4 Tuesday through Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10
Annual memberships start at $45. To February 24.
609-292-6464. "George Washington and the Battle of Trenton: The
Evolution of an American Image," an exhibition that documents
the historic context of the American Revolution, the "Ten Crucial
Days" of the Trenton campaign that was the turning point, and
the subsequent commemoration of George Washington’s heroic image by
American artists. To February 24.
Also "Images of Americans on the Silver Screen," to April
14. "Art by African-Americans in the Collection," to August
18. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.;
Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Website: www.njstatemuseum.org.
On extended view: "New Jersey’s Native Americans: The
Record"; "Delaware Indians of New Jersey"; "The Sisler
Collection of North American Mammals"; "Of Rock and Fire";
"Neptune’s Architects"; "The Modernists"; "New
Jersey Ceramics, Silver, Glass and Iron"; "Washington Crossing
609-397-0275. "Little Windows," an exhibition of acrylics
on paper and canvas by Sharon Nieburg. Open Monday and Thursday, 1
to 9 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday 1 to 5
p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To January 12.
Winter Exhibition features Albert Bross Jr. and Vincent Ceglia.
hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To January 6.
"Crilley 2002," an exhibition of new oils by Joseph Crilley.
Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday,
noon to 6 p.m. To January 6.
"Mars-Barr," a shared show featuring Chris Mars’s brooding
figures and Glenn Barr’s voluptuous lounge lizards. Website:
Thursday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. To January 28.
908-735-8415. "Degrees of Figuration," a diverse exploration
of the human figure by five artists: Bill Leech, Tom Nussbaum, Keary
Rosen, Linda Stojak, and Charles Yuen. Also "Frank Sabatino,"
abstract wall sculptures created from rare woods and found objects.
And "Karl Stirner," welded iron abstract sculpture. Museum
hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To January 6.
215-340-9800. "Artists of the Commonwealth: Realism in
Painting, 1950 to 2000," an exhibition featuring the work of
recognized realist artists and educators who were born and trained
in Pennsylvania, or who spent their professional careers there.
artists include Diane Burko, Sidney Goodman, Alice Neel, Philip
Nelson Shanks, Andy Warhol, Neil Welliver, and Andrew Wyeth. To
6. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday,
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings to 9 p.m. $6.
Also: "Taking Liberties: Photographs of David Graham." The
Bucks County photographer, sometimes called a
has worked for 20 years exploring the nation’s heartland with his
view camera, and lovingly recording the creative and offbeat ways
that Americans mark their territory; to January 27.
Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "The Baltics: Nonconformist and Modernist
Art During the Soviet Era," the first major survey of modernist
art produced in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during the post-World
War II Soviet period. The show features 150 works from the Zimmerli’s
Dodge Collection produced in reaction to communist repression. Show
continues to March 17. Also "St. Petersburg, 1921," to March
10. $3 adults; free to students and children.
Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.;
and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission $3 adults; under 18 free; museum
is open free to the public on the first Sunday of every month.
tours every Sunday at 2 and 3 p.m.
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