The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Catalogue introduction (1975)

Introduction to catalogue for Nova at Park Center Invitational Painting Show. Cleveland, Ohio; April 15 - May 5, 1975, p. 3.

Judging this show was hard work, but it was a pleasure. I looked at more than 750 slides from almost 100 artists, visited about 40 studios and saw several hundred works, and chose a show of 52 paintings and drawings by 17 artists. As I write this I have not seen the show installed, but I know it is excellent.

The strongest vein of painting I saw is geometric abstraction. It is somewhat easier to make a good painting with a geometric basis than it is to make a good painterly abstraction or realist painting, so there is more good painting of this sort around, and this is reflected in the show. Mark French's highly colored cubist-illusionist paintings are particularly good. On the whole, painterly abstraction and realist painting were less strong and less in evidence, but there was excellent work to be seen. I was impressed by Albert Elkins' large abstractions; I know how difficult it is to bring this kind of painting off. Realist painting is recessive in Cleveland, as it is everywhere. I look forward to a resurgence of realist painting, when things sort themselves out. The best "straight" realist work I was that of Richard Treaster, reminiscent of Thomas Eakins. I particularly like his drawings and watercolors, and picked several for the show. Although I'm not an admirer of photo-realism as a style, Richard Heipp's paintings are exceptional, and better than most photo-realism being done in New York.

I picked the show with my eye and experience, as is my habit. Many of my choices would have been those of any judge. Choosing at the other end of the scale is more difficult. I included some painting which is evolving and awkward, but charged with freshness and vigor, and I did not include some good professional work which seemed enervated or flaccid. Another judge might have chosen differently on this level, but I can say with certainty that my decisions were exercised with full reflection and consideration, and with no second thoughts. The fact that I had to exclude work of good quality testifies to the general high level of painting being done here, and guaranteed a good show.

Apparently there were a number of artists who did not enter the competition. This is too bad, and in a subtle way undermines what Nova is trying to do. Organization is the best way to put art across. Cleveland lacks an active gallery system. A strong, representative exhibition like this is a valuable alternative, and it is fair, or more fair, than the marketplace. This show will be good for everyone even though few are represented in it. There is a lot of excellent art being made around Cleveland. Nova is providing a vehicle to bring this art to the public and it should have the full support of the artists it aims to serve.