August 18, 2020
Creating a "sense of place" is a crucial principle that undergirds Fleischner's multi-disciplinary practice. By combining primary forms, lines, and volumes across his individual sculptures, gouaches, and large-scale sited works, Fleischner emphasizes a return to vernacular, simple forms that are repeated throughout art and architectural history. Since the 1970s, Fleischner has been engaged in an ongoing dialogue about what he terms "place-making". His work considers dimensioned space, and our perceptions and experiences of it. Distance, inside/outside, placement, form, scale, color and light are all aspects that he considers.
Fleischner is best known for his large-scale, sited works, which he built in several sites in the United States and abroad. This exhibition presents his recent body of individual sculptures and gouaches — "The process of working with these materials", Richard writes, "has been intimate and immediate... My work grows out of the details that I recognize and acknowledge within the commonplace and the universal – which are irreducible in our everyday built experience."
"Ruins like those at Pompeii and Ostia Antica in Italy, the simple existing qualities of a factory, stone quarry, or mill, and the beauty and integrity of everyday, unauthored situations have always been compelling to Fleischner... In ruins there are minimal references to what was once there, but the basic gesture of place remains. It is a sense of place in its most primitive and primal form... It is this economy of line, plane, and volume that captures the artist and which he repeats in his built work and in the gouaches." —Julia Brown, writer and curator
Richard Fleischner, Untitled Palestinian Refugee Camp Photographs, 1980, archival pigment print, 17 x 22 in, (43.2 x 55.9 cm), Edition of 10 + 1AP
Growing up, Fleischner lived in the urban environment of the Bronx, New York. In his practice, he still draws heavily from these formative perspectives of the world. For him, the handball or basketball courts that dotted the borough where he grew up in were circumscribed open spaces, determined by chain-link fences and brick walls. These became plane and line, which in turn becomes volume and form — and influenced his current body of work today.
Richard Fleischner, Untitled, 2015, steel, paper, beeswax, and plaster, 4 3/4 x 18 1/4 x 9 1/2 in (12.1 x 46.4 x 24.1 cm)
"These things occur all the time everywhere, particular within vernacular circumstances. You just have to look, to see it, to pay attention... and then you have to acknowledge it. So, I may find something laying on the street, and it may just start a whole thing. A whole process."
Explore Richard Fleischner's studio in the video below.
Richard Fleischner, Untitled Construction, 2016, wood, cardboard, earthen-plaster, catalpa pods, 25 1/2 x 20 1/4 x 5 7/8 in (64.8 x 51.4 x 14.9 cm)
In Fleischner's recent gouaches, colored elements — usually cubes and rectangles — are suspended in the ground of the work. His gouaches address the same formal principles found in his individual sculptures, realized in the more intimate scale of small, and larger-scale drawings.
According to art historian Jennifer Gross, Fleischner’s work in this medium "has explored the tensions between forms across a two-dimensional frontal plane for many years." It is in these gouaches that forms are set "against a deep space, signaling their consideration in three dimensions—or in space that extends infinitely. The forms magically hold in proximity to one another." An important part of Fleischner's practice, these gouache works have always spoken to the principles of place-making that the artist's sculptures embody.
Fleischner's gouaches are made through a long process of building up layers of paint, then sanding, scraping, and washing them down. The worked surfaces of his gouaches bear the marks of the artist's own hand, similar to many of the indvidual sculptures.
As Julia Brown writes, "In the same way Fleischner works the surface of a stone or piece of wood in his built projects as well as in his singular sculptures to achieve a certain patina, the surfaces of the gouaches develop a finish of complex interest, a physicality that carries a sense of time and process."
Richard Fleischner, Untitled Gouache, 2018-2019, gouache on paper, 22 5/8 x 30 in (57.5 x 76.2 cm)
His latest works in the exhibition are two works from an ongoing series that he started in 2019 of wall-mounted constructions, made of wooden cubes. Fleischner "prioritizes optical engagement over physical comprehension", according to Jennifer Gross, where these works encourage "close looking, intimacy, and detail."
Fleischner's latest body of sculptures and gouaches are a testament to a five-decade career that has developed through paying close attention to the details that make up the fabric of human life and its homes. As Jennifer Gross writes, “Fleischner believes in absolute truths based on human proportions that can and should be utilized in the making of art, and that have shaped many of the great cultural artifacts in human history.”
Read Jennifer Gross's essay on the work of Richard Fleischner in our new exhibition catalogue. For more information, click here.
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