The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Real Painting (2005)

Catalogue essay for eponymous exhibition at DKR Gallery, December 2005.

What is real painting? Well, for one thing, it is a catchy title for a last-minute show. And perhaps too provocative, so I am told. But we felt that it said what we are doing.

By "real painting" we mean painting that delights in the sensuous nature of actual paint, painted surfaces that feature the "real stuff" and what can be done with it to bring art to the viewer's eye. Real painting does not want to instruct, browbeat, illustrate or cover its tracks with a label. It wants to provide visual pleasure.

Real painting is alive and well in Miami, as it is everywhere, in the studios and in the hearts of those who love painting. But it is hard to find in the galleries and museums in these days of academic postmodernism. So we thought that this month, which begins with Art Basel, might be a good opportunity to show a few Miami artists who are making art that is purely visual.

These artists are imbued with the rich tradition of Western painting and want nothing more than to carry it forward, innovating within the medium. Some are still students coming up; some, like myself, are cranky veterans. Some are realists and some are abstractionists and some are in between. Some lavish the surface with heavy paint: Blanco and Carpenter, for example, do calm, sumptuously painted realistic scenes while Massengale's and Einspruch's gelatinous realism is more violent, inflected and abstract. Bethea, Boshell and White make abstract pictures with expressively roughened surfaces that remember landscape, while Celman, Marsh and Staples, and myself, I suppose, are "just paint." And Gambrell banishes paint altogether in favor of minimalist expanses of richly colored vinyl from cropped billboards.

They are different from one another, but they are bound together by their need to make art that is a pleasure to look at, and they all feel that the ancient tradition of painting, when sufficiently renewed and refreshed, can carry a spark of the human spirit with somewhat greater felicity than a soup can or a pickled shark.

We put this exhibit together on a shoestring and in a hurry. The lighting is primitive, the walls need painting and there is no air conditioning. We have no idea if anyone will get here to see what we are doing. We think we are making good work, and we think some of the thousands of art lovers who come down for the great Art Basel Extravaganza might like to see something a little different, perhaps a relief from and maybe a little better than what they see everywhere in the mainstream salons. We hope they do, and we hope they like the work.