Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Prowess and Dusk in Lee Newman's Prints

This is it, folks. You can't take your eyes off of it. It haunts us, growing in stature and dimension and that line. Just look at it. Purposeful, refined, mucked up and re-written in plate, and on paper. It's something that swims with currency and timelessness. It's an image that can withstand the test to compare admirably with the likes of the German expressionists, Rembrandt, Lovis Corinth and van Gogh.

Master print maker Lee Newman, who hails from the Washington D.C. area,  knows his way around a piece of metal, and he knows just how much to give the viewer to keep their rapt attention. This print (above) is called "Janet", and it had me the second I laid eyes on it. It's pure drawing, and done by an artist that feels as comfortable working on metal as paper, which isn't always so fluid a process or transition as printmakers would like.
"Homeless" is another work that speaks of Newman's prowess and unflinching line that captures the moment - in this instance a homeless man crouched down along the sidewalk. It sparks an immediate recall of the drudgery found in van Gogh's charcoal drawings of field workers. Homage may also be seen in the way Newman utilizes his line as did Honore Daumier, but his linear descriptiveness is less confined than Daumier so we can see these figures in 'any period', because they transcend a specific time or place.

Another series that speaks to the elder members of our generation as it approaches it's twilight, is Newman's "Alzheimer heads". Whether this is an educational process for the artist to define portraiture through the varying stages of dementia, describing the vacancy, sense of loss, and aloneness, it does not matter. Newman aptly and hauntingly  portrays these people lost in their own worlds, and with an ever-lessening composition,  and in so doing re-emphasizes the crumbling not only of their physical parameters, but the psychological breakdown of their mental capacities, and memories which are forever fading. They are sad images, and they resonate the dread within us all who may know a loved one suffering from this growing national disease. What makes them poignant is their scale, which being small, creates an intimate and private hell that impacts us like Francisco de Goya's nightmarish Caprichos series. As foreboding as this series can be, I want to see more and more and I look forward to his latest DUSK series which he says is" related to my growing awareness of my waning powers as an artist." I would think that surely is a date in the distant  future.
Lee Newman's contributions to the printmaking scene in Washington D.C. area is legendary, and he founded the Washington Studio School. The WPG in Silver Spring, MD is the only place one can see more of his talent's work, so check it out.


In closing, I leave you with this last piece, called "Overgrown" which again foreshadows not a physical descriptiveness but represents an artist sensing his journey has still far to go before he sleeps. We all understand the nature of the roads we must travel in this life. In Newman's travels, we empathize with his twists and turns and bode him well.

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