Sunday, June 28, 2015
Posted by Aubrey Levinthal
I saw the survey of Horace Pippin at Brandywine River Museum today. It was so good to see. There were a lot of paintings and his work is well deserving of a deeper examination. Being able to look at so many works at once I felt better able to figure out why I always gravitate to his paintings. He is so subtle in breaking rules.
In school you are told never to put anything dead center of the composition or make it symmetrical or make the top of a composition too heavy. But if you do break those rules you should do it in an overt way, so its not a question of whether it was purposeful.
But in Pippin's paintings, he does all those things and does them quietly. Things are too symmetrical or a little out of proportion or a bit warped in perspective. That slight skew makes for a really heightened engagement with the painting and the narrative, it isn't easy to breeze over.
And then the color is the other thing, he really uses it in a personal way. The value is always completely full spectrum from bright white to rich blacks. These tonal shapes make up large majorities of most paintings but then saturated reds, greens, and yellows sit in harmony. They don't read as sugary or easy among the bigger tonal areas painted into such deliberate shapes. Seeing a few pieces (one pictured above) of unfinished paintings made me think about this, how drawing and value play such a big role in the paintings and help establish mood through scale and contrast almost immediately.
Pippin remains a favorite of mine for his personal interpretation of the things around him and in his thoughts. The show is up through July 12th, here is a link.