Crispin Arriving in Morning, 1998, oil on canvas, 84"x 95"
Joshua Tree Landscape, 1998, oil on canvas, 39"x 117"
Joshua Tree Sunset #2, 1998, oil on canvas, 78"x 92"
Joshua Tree Starry Sky, 1998, oil on canvas, 117"x 68"
Joshua Tree Comet, 1998, oil on canvas, 67"x 67"
Joshua Tree Starry Sky, 1998, oil on canvas, 117"x117"
2005 Madrid Night Studio
The Madrid series paintings were shown at David Richard Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2014.
GREGORY BOTTS: PAINTING AND ITS CONTENTS
By Peter Frank
The fact of the matter is simple: all those painters of the last hundred years (in Western art, at least) who have striven to keep the observed world in their painting have labored under the twin suns of Matisse and Picasso. Many have “escaped” this intoxicating landscape of color and form by reverting to the examples of the Old Masters instead; those who bask in the twin suns, however, do not reject the pre-modern painters, but see them through the eyes of those suns. Logic and passion, spiritual and scientific quest, manifest in the celebration and modulation of color, and in the dissolution and reconstitution of form, that the rival painters of early 20th century Paris synthesized from their milieux and personalized to the point of glory.
It has been the job of subsequent representational painters to personalize their approaches as well. We judge such painters on their ability not simply to brand their practice stylistically, but to invent painterly dictions of obvious distinction. Such painters do not need either to conjure or to suppress the touchstones of Matisse and Picasso, they need only accept and engage their heritage, to use it in embracing what they see rather than merely cultivate manners of painting. And this is much of the reason why what Gregory Botts sees is so compelling to our eyes: not only does Botts’ art learn from Matisse and Picasso and their inheritors, to the point where Botts reifies his artistic DNA with each canvas, but it renews the sense of impulse, the sense fusing urgency with inevitability, that Matisse and Picasso brought to painting – what (in the wake of figures like van Gogh and Monet) became the pulse driving the modernist adventure. Indeed, from certain angles Botts’ approach actually seems to refresh our grasp of Matisse and Picasso themselves, not to mention the interceding generations of painters.
This is hardly to identify Botts as a culminatory figure in modern painting; but he is a notably syncretic one. He clearly favors Matisse’s fauvism and Picasso’s cubism equally, and indicates clear, deep awareness of many styles that have succeeded them (including more than a few that strove to abandon the depiction of the “real” world altogether). Botts is clearly one of those painters who is motivated to paint as much by the romance of paint itself – its material qualities and its history – as by its ability to evoke many emotions and experiences uniquely. But he paints first and foremost to investigate and exploit painting’s relationship with the world.
A central experience in Botts’ work is the transition between interior and exterior space. This transition Matisse and Picasso solved in different, perhaps complementary ways: Matisse painted his way out the window, and Picasso drew his way in. Botts does both at once, certainly indebted to the two modern masters but imitating neither’s particular solution. By fracturing not only space but spatial context – juxtaposing planes of imagery (as well as color) – Botts proposes contextual non sequiturs held together with purely visual rhymes and echoes. Stylizing landscape factors – sky, topography, vegetation – in sometimes jarring contraposition with domestic objects (often in states of such abstraction that they seem pure pattern), Botts not only jumbles the effects of outside and inside, but hides from us the point of threshold, the doorway, actual or theoretical, where the intimate opens onto the expansive, where the human gives way to the natural. As Botts comprehends space, the natural is the human.
What allows these jumps in space to work is not simply Gregory Botts’ logic, but the skill, vigor, and bravado the painter brings to the task of painting. We thrill to the idea of the world rushing into our room – bursting in the moment the blinds go up, or even tumbling in when the walls themselves crumble – but only in painting can we invite the world in and become as cozy with trees and mountains as we are with vases of flowers and patterned rugs. This is a lesson Matisse and Picasso each tried to teach us; Botts’ work makes us realize we learned the lesson not from one or the other, but from both.
Los Angeles , August 2014
Madrid, Night Studio, All one falling, #1, 115 x 73", o/c, 2005
David Richard Gallery, Santa Fe, NM, Summer 2014
Madrid, Night Studio, #6, 91 x 67", o/c, 2005
Madrid, Night Studio, #5, 91 x 67", o/c, 2005
David Richard Gallery, Santa Fe, NM, Summer 2014
Madrid, Night Studio, #3 91 x 67", o/c, 2005
Madrid, Night Studio, #2, 91 x 67", o/c, 2005
Madrid Crop #4, 48 x 36", o/c, 2006
Cricket in the Grass, 48 x 66 1/4, o/c, 2011
Summer Reeds, 48 x 32", o-c, 2009
Paumanok Night Studio #1, 84" x 68", o-c, 2010
Paumanok Night Studio #4, 112" x 84", o-c, 2010
Station, alternate, #10, 46 x 34”, oil on canvas, 2009