Saturday, March 3, 2007

Stanley Lewis; The Legend

By Amy Misurelli Sorensen

I was amazed to see so many people in attendance at Stanley Lewis’s opening and lecture on February 17. He led a discussion on his retrospective currently on display at the Katzen Museum.

Stanley Lewis comes from a specific school, The New York Art School, where form takes precedence over content. It has a history. It is a very modernist notion and I believed this notion and his work to be dated. I was prepared for the rhetoric to accompany the monotonous display of landscapes presented on the wall. I thought I had Stanley all figured out, and I admit, I went into it half-heartedly.

The audience was a problem. It was a very large crowd. I had a hard time hearing Stanley speak. The fans in attendance fascinated and distracted me with their gaping mouths, frozen smiles, and adoring eyes. What kind of man generates such a large fan club?

Stanley Lewis does.

He stepped in like a breath of fresh air. I found myself engaged with his nonspecific descriptions of process, his humility and honesty to his obsession with paint and paper applications. He is entertaining and I found myself laughing aloud. Finally, someone, an artist, is simply saying it is o.k. to do this art thing, just for the love of it. What a gala and free wine to boot!

On February 19, I witnessed the true genius of Stanley Lewis. Stanley is an admirable teacher. He instructed a drawing class at the National Gallery. After showing the class several Dutch paintings, he recommended we sit and draw from one painting to figure out and reveal its secrets.

I choose to draw from Rembrandt’s “Man with an Earring.” I specifically choose this painting because of the one figure composition and the compelling portrait. Stanley begins to draw along side of me. He eagerly assimilates the larger forms in the planes of the face to their relationships to the planes in the ground. He makes discoveries and shares them with me. I see in Stanley a commitment to figuring out Rembrandt’s formal decisions. I questioned his presumptions, and continued on my own investigation. Then, as I stand and draw from this painting, I have a revelation. Through drawing, I have revealed the analytical rhythm of this painting that is not apparent from first glance. I search through this drawing for two hours, and finally I too figure out the puzzle. I dialogue with the ghost of Rembrandt through my pen and paper.

Stanley’s contagious passion and teachings are a gift. Stanley Lewis is committed, as Picasso was, to figuring out the language of art.

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