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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the February 11, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
From Lowly Rocks, Bold Art
A painted landscape typically tries to capture a macrocosm within a few feet of canvas. New York artist Joseph Fiore takes the microcosm of the landscape’s component parts — the lowly rock — and explodes it to create big paintings that are part abstraction, part close observation from nature.
At the Rider University Art Gallery, “Joseph Fiore: 25 Years of Paintings from Rock Fragments” is an exhibition, curated by Harry Naar, which pays tribute to the American painter who is also Naar’s former professor. Fiore will talk about his work on Thursday, February 12, at 7 p.m. in the gallery on the second floor of the Student Center of Rider’s Lawrence campus. The show, which opened February 5, remains on view to Sunday, March 7.
Fiore’s paintings can be found in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City; the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the North Carolina State Museum; and the Chase Manhattan Collection. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at New York’s Staempfli Gallery, Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, John Bernard Myers Gallery, and Fischbach Gallery, among others.
“When he was teaching, he was a very strong figurative painter,” says Naar, professor of fine arts and director of Rider’s Art Gallery. “I knew his work as landscapes. I was surprised by the abstractions until I realized that they came from life — as a response to nature. That really intrigued me.
“To the keen observer, these paintings transform observations of the literal world of nature into lyrical metaphors,” Naar explains. “His selection of paint colors is strong and luminous, his use of lines rhythmical and his depiction of shapes geometric and symbolic. These paintings are poetic views of nature.”
Naar says he chose Fiore for a retrospective show at Rider because he was one of the professors he most valued during his student years at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) in the 1960s.
“I had always admired his work,” says Naar. “I thought he was a terrific painter as well as a good teacher. I once saw his later work in New York, but then I lost track of him.” About 18 months ago, another former PCA classmate, David Dewey, recommended to Naar that he take a look at Fiore’s work. “One thing led to another,” says Naar, and the result is the show that focuses on the entire span of Fiore’s 25-year series of rock paintings. An accompanying catalog features an interview with Fiore by Naar.
Fiore grew up in East Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1930s. He traces the beginning of his art career to a summer landscape sketching class he took at age 13 or 14 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. His father, Salvatore Fiore, was a founding member of the Cleveland Orchestra who played second violin under George Szell, so music was an integral part of his boyhood.
As Fiore tells Naar in the show’s accompanying catalog, “Music has always been an important part of my life. I can’t imagine a world without it.” Although he studied piano and took a harmony course at Black Mountain College, Fiore says he never thought of becoming a professional musician. “I am content to be a devoted amateur at the piano, sometimes joined by my wife Mary for four-hand duets of Bach chorales or Joplin rags.”
In 1946, following his discharge from the U.S. army, Fiore was accepted to the small, progressive Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina. Assisted by the G.I. Bill, he studied there with such luminaries as Josef Albers, Jacob Lawrence, Ilya Bolotowsky, John Cage, and Willem DeKooning — although this was an era when both Cage and DeKooning were almost completely unknown outside New York. At this point, Fiore explains, “I was not looking for ‘my own painterly voice.’ I was like a sponge, soaking up everything.”
Fiore says that figurative landscape painting, which became one of his strengths, came to the fore when he started summering in Maine in 1959. He focused on landscapes until 1978 when he did his first rock painting, “Variations on a Rock,” featured as item No. 1 in the Rider exhibition.
“I had been emphasizing rocks in my landscapes and seascapes; the Maine coast, the gorges and waterfalls of the Delaware Water Gap area and rocky streams in our area of Maine,” Fiore tells Naar. “I had been collecting rock fragments before I ever thought that I would use them as models or motifs. I was particularly fascinating with specimens that showed marks that looked like figurations of man’s making. Here was a portable piece of the landscape itself, and one which connects us to history in geologic time.”
“When you get closer to the present, the connection between nature is freer,” says Naar, “and to me the paintings become more hieroglyphic in content. There are symbols in there that are specific to nature, but yet at the same time they’re really abstractions. The color in the later paintings is so beautiful. Some of them could be cave paintings.”
— Nicole Plett
Joseph Fiore, Rider University Art Gallery, Student Center, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, 609-895-5588. “Joseph Fiore: 25 Years of Paintings from Rock Fragments.” Free gallery talk Thursday, February 12, at 7 p.m.
Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
Anne Reid Art Gallery, Princeton Day School, 650 Great Road, 609-924-6700. Photographs by Regine Corngold of artists in their homes. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To February 19.
Hills Gallery, 195 Nassau Street, 609-252-0909. Exhibition of a private collection that includes lithographs by Picasso, Chagall, and Matisse. Also smaller etchings by Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, and Matisse. To March 30.
Marsha Child Contemporary, 220 Alexander Street, 609-497-7330. “Ricardo Barros: Facing Sculpture.” Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 7 p.m. To February 24.
Princeton Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, 609-921-0100. Arlene Gale Milgram, recent paintings and prints. A public school art teacher and Ewing resident, Milgram often works on wood blocks using a cold wax and oil paint technique. Open Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Saturdays. To February 28.
Princeton Public Library Cafe, Princeton Shopping Center, North Harrison, 609-924-9529. Pen and ink sketches and watercolor prints by Sergio Bonotto. Scenes of the Princeton area and sketches of Europe during World War II. Cafe hours are Monday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sundays.
University Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street, 609-497-4000. “Princeton Impressions” by Olga Holroyd. To March 24.
Extension Gallery, 60 Sculptors Way, Mercerville, 609-890-7777. Recent works in sculpture by Shanthi Swaroopini Roy. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To February 22.
Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, Schoolhouse Lane, Cranbury, 609-395-0900. An exhibition of surreal paintings by William B. Hogan. Gallery is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sundays noon to 3 p.m. To February 27.
Lawrenceville Inn, 2691 Main Street, Lawrenceville, 609-219-1900. Oils and watercolors by John McDowell Williams. Open every day 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Montgomery Center for the Arts, 124 Montgomery Road, Skillman, 609-921-3272. “Dual Visions,” a shared show featuring photography by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac and Kenneth Kaplowitz. Kassof-Isaac is a painter and photographer who creates composite images by layering her color negatives.. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. To February 29.
Princeton University Art Museum, McCosh 50, 609-258-3788. “The Art of the Print in the Western World,” a survey of prints from the museum’s collection by major European and American artists from the Renaissance to the present featuring Goya, Rembrandt, and Picasso; to March 14.
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Highlights tours every Saturday at 2 p.m. Free admission.
Gallery at Mercer County College, Communications Center, West Windsor, 609-586-4800, ext. 3589. “All Together Now,” a group show featuring contributions from 28 MCCC faculty artists. Open Mondays, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Fridays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Saturdays, 3 to 5 p.m. Evening hours Thursdays, 7 to 9 p.m. To February 19.
Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20 Library Place, 609-497-7990. “A Photographic Journey,” nature photography by Heinz and Maria Gartlgruber. Open Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. To March 12.
Artists’ Gallery, 32 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-4588. The artist-owned and operated gallery celebrates its Ninth Annual Mid-Winter All-Member Exhibition. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To February 29.
Coryell Gallery, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-0804. The 24th annual juried art exhibition, “Lambertville and the Surrounding Area,” co-sponsored by the Lambertville Historical Society and selected by juror Douglas Wiltraut. Among the nine artists awarded cash prizes are Robert Sakson for his watercolor “Union Street,” and Marge Chavooshion for “Shadows on Bridge Street.” Open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 14.
New Hope Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, New Hope, 215-862-3396. The New Hope Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition continues with works by sculptors Christoph Spath, Kate Brockman, Rob Ressler, Dana Stewart, Dan Kainz, and Bob Emser. Host sites include George E. Michael Inc., Union Square, New Hope Solebury Library, the Wedgwood Inn, New Hope Historical Society, Golden Door Gallery, and New Hope Mule Barge. To April 30.
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