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David Reed and Curator Kati Siegel at the Rose Art Museum

  • Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University 415 South Street Waltham, MA, 02453 United States (map)

A conversation about the exhibition, "Painting Paintings (David Reed) 1975," on view through December 11. 

David Reed came to New York from the West Coast in the late 1960s. He found an open, energetic art scene, full of experimental sculpture, performance, film, and music that described its own creation. Materials—steel, dirt, rocks, film, sound—were to be just themselves, brought to life, to motion, by the artist’s gesture. Like a few other painters, Reed sought to do something similar with paint, reducing colors and composition in favor of blunt, individual brushstrokes. The strokes were made with a brush loaded with red or black and painted directly onto a wet ground; we can see the speed of the mark, the downward pull of gravity, and the drips where they meet. Forty years later, the directness of Reed’s act remains, the paintings still fresh and strong.

Despite this apparent matter-of-factness, Reed felt split. He was both immersed in the intense act of painting and always a little outside of it, seeing the paintings as already receding into the past. Making them, he realized the impossibility of being entirely present in the moment.  And so these paintings are both process and image. In this sense, they look back to the open-ended experience that characterized Abstract Expressionism and forward to a generation of artists who embraced questions of representation, self-consciousness, and repetition. The younger artist Christopher Wool saw these paintings in 1975 at a New York gallery, where they struck him with force; looking back today, the paintings seem like doors, openings between past and present.