Organic Chemistry
Ron Clark, Doreane Conrad and Elizabeth Austin Ashe
 

Ron Clark

The path Ron Clark has traveled to arrive at his present position in the fine art world has been one relatively outside the more conventional routes taken by many artists working today. Instead of artist-in-residence programs, grants or awards, his evolvement is characterized by years in the performing and visual arts, unique relationships with renowned artists, a solid academic pedigree and almost instant success in the environment of retail art sales and patronage.

Ron Clark was born in 1948 in a small, agrarian community just north of the Oklahoma-Texas border in the lush and fertile Red River Valley. One summer morning during his childhood, he wandered into an artist's studio near his grandmother's house and discovered an artist on a ladder working a mural-sized canvas. The artist - still one of Clark's closest friends and confidantes - was Harold Stevenson, a Surrealist painter who rose to prominence in Paris during the mid 1950s and whose debut in the New York avant garde was alongside Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and others as part of Sidney Janis's legendary 1962 group exhibition, The New Realists. This chance encounter not only proved pivotal to Clark's multi-disciplinary future as an artist, but also established the foundations of a lifelong friendship with a master painter and an important figure in the history of American art.

Gifted with drawing skills as a child, Ron Clark was born into an environment of music; his father was an amateur jazz musician, his uncle a professional opera tenor. He studied and performed classical piano for ten years, was an All State concert trumpetist in high school, and later became an accomplished guitarist, performing onstage and in recording studios with working rock, blues and jazz groups.

As an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma, Clark first studied architecture, then graphic design. After working several years in Houston as an Architectural Illustrator and in Dallas as a Graphic Designer, he moved to New York and spent two years in the rigorous and demanding BFA program at Parsons School of Design, with concentration in Visual Communication and Modern Art History (early 20th Century European painting and sculpture).
 

Submerged in the New York art and design world, Clark worked as a Graphic Designer in Manhattan design studios and as a gallery assistant on high-profile Park Avenue exhibitions. During the summers, he would frequently earn extra money doing pastel portraits from live sittings, working in a refined, almost photo-realism style. During this period, the frantic pace and intoxicating social realities of living, studying and working in New York profoundly redefined his aesthetic sensibilities and self-perception as an artist.

After returning to Dallas and working several years as a Designer and Art Director, in 1995 Clark began creating PITTURAS METAPHYSICA, a series of large oil paintings (up to 72" x 96") combining minimalist geometric imagery with expanses of radiant color and rendered in a complex technique of multiple layering and metallic oil underpainting. This body of work began exhibiting in 1997 with a one-man show at Southwest Gallery in Dallas and resulted in instant and sustained retail sales to private collectors and corporate buyers.

Clark's 2000 series, BODY OF THE DIAGRAM, drew from his attraction to early modernist painting, neoteric architectural design and forms from the human body. The work was realized through several compositional approaches; dramatic imagery, ambiguous relationships between form and space, sensuous shapes, and a lush, vibrant palette. These more painterly pictorial devices were employed to express the humanistic components of architectural formalism and the physical/emotional sensations they evince. Works from this series were critically well received and selected for inclusion in the prestigious Dallas Critics' Choice Exhibition at the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art.

IMPENDING PRESENCE, Clark's current body of work, is a cycle of paintings evoking primal chaos and human circumstance, then resolving with compositions of ethereal, Zen-like countenance. These paintings are characterized by mono- and poly-chromatic hues of saturated color emanating from highly textured layers of modeling paste and manifold coats of metallic and oil color.

To patrons familiar with the expanding ouvre of Ron Clark, IMPENDING PRESENCE is a compelling and edifying study of the artist's evolution. To those unfamiliar with his work, it is simply a dramatic and definitive introduction to an artist with established collectibility emerging into the broader domains of art criticism by virtue of a more scopic and visible U.S. exhibition presence.

 

Doreane Conrad

Doreane Conrad paints a floating world where the names of things no longer matter. She shows us a place where color is the primal element and unfixed flow its principal energy. In this world we are cast adrift, our compass no longer orienting us to the normality of direction or category. We are lost and found anew.

Conrad takes us to an aqueous realm where watery currents swirl and eddy with languorous or jazzy rhythms. The irregularly concentric lines of topographical maps vainly attempt to define the ever-changing atmospheres of color. We can intuit cavernous, vertiginous, multi-strata landscapes seen through translucent depths. Suspended in this indeterminate space are cells and pods that seem like the embryos of some yet-unknown life forms. They float or pulse in the charged quiescence of a chromatic amniotic fluid.

For all the variegated flow of Conrad's painted world, some salient features emerge: zones of color, a gestural lyricism, circular and curving forms, and a pervasive layering that creates a mysterious sense of space. There is a jewel-like richness of surface and hue that makes the viewer feel that he has fallen into a world that is both natural and enchanted.

Conrad's abstract paintings simultaneously allude to the terrestrial and to the underwater, to a state between what one knows and what one feels. We float immersed in a liquid no-place that is at once intensely visual and strangely emotive. Like the mermaid who has created a fantastic, luxurious, alternative world beneath the waves, Conrad invites us to explore her unsettled, uncharted depths.

John Mendelsohn

Elizabeth Austin-Ashe

 

Dominique Nahas, independent curator and critic for Art in America among others, writes of Austin's pieces in the exhibition brochure " They are personal universes, invocations and evocations of matters large and small, matters grounded by earth yet boundless as a bracingly cool night flecked with stars."

The Nocturnes series began in 2000 features magical landscapes set at night in rich and densely layered reds, blues and greens, that include metallic powders and collaged holographic foil. In Crab Apples, 2001, bright red apples dangle from cool foil branches against an expanse of shimmering blue-black midnight punctuated by twinkling stars.  Austin carefully selects to lead our gaze through the branches and into the heavens to entice childhood dreams.  

Austin begins with drawing on locations or what is refereed to as plein aire, on paper that protects clear acrylic sheets.  Then incises the contours of recognizable tree branches, flowers, or other descriptive settings directly into the acrylic.   Acrylic paint is applied on the reverse side of the sheet, first by adding highlights and then followed by the background. This method has been employed since the 13th century in Italy and throughout Europe, India and China.   Collaged onto the sheet are reflective holographic foils and metallic powders like mica or aluminum.  In many pieces, it appears Austin has used multiple layers of sheets to create one piece, but in fact it is all illusion - there is in reality only one layer.