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Jack Lembeck

Public Collections

"Crista Cross"

(1978) acrylic on canvas (108"x 96")


Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Ivan Karp was the facilitator of this acquisition for The Sydney and Frances Lewis Collection

Ivan Karp was a long time generous friend of "Razor" gallery. His "Hundred Acres" gallery was the next gallery south on West Broadway when "OK Harris" was directly across the street at 465 West Broadway. He also made arrangements for other dealers to visit artist's studios. It was through Ivan Karp that Jack Lembeck began to exhibit his art with the "Warren Benedict Gallery" shortly after his separation from "Razor" in 1973.
(View historical Ivan Karp interview video here) and (View 2012 Memorial for Ivan Karp here)

Sydney Lewis also commissioned James Wines' - "SITE" (Sculpture In The Environment) to design nine artistic BEST Products Co. structures that were radical for the period.

The following statement was written by the artist in 1979 for the original catalog : "Late Twentieth Century Art From The Sydney And Frances Lewis Foundation"

Crista Cross is a mature result of an evolutionary painting process that I began in 1969. It is concerned not only with mysterious reality of metaphysical experience.What in our perception convinces us that something exists?

In 1968 I made a concious decision to abandon the academic tradition of imitating "fine art"or "pure art" and to concentrate on resolving my basic interests in visual expressions outside the realm of "pure art." Basically I wanted to see with innocent eyes. Drawings by my daughter, Crista, were a strong influence. I wanted personal things to affect my painting. My non-art environment is the most important ingredient.

Early paintings in 1969 contained circles, or "discs", because that is the first geometric form that a child draws. These forms were given a position in space by shadowing the shapes with black spray paint. This was a device I had learned eleven years before while working in a sign-lettering factory.

The vocabulary developed rapidly. By 1971 the paintings were an entertaining aggregate of childlike drawings, pure visiual elements and new perceptions of space. They looked like graffitti-covered walls that existed in some fanciful space created by the shadows that could only exist in three-dimensional space.

Many people interpret these paintings as imitations of painting on glass, or "trompe l'oeil". This is an effort to rationalize their feelings in the "realist art" terms of the times. They fail to realize that it is the simultaneous dicohotomy of reality versus fantasy that is the adventure and mystery of art. My paintings have a lot to do with reality but have never had anything to do with "realist art".

Reality is interpreted through perception and understood by logic. Crista Cross is obviously about our space. There is never a change in scale. It contains pictorial elements, but it is not a picture. It influences our feelings about space and light without telling us why. Where there is a shadow there must be light. This is something our logic tells us. While teaching at Yale from 1970 to1972, Iwould darken the classroom and cast strange shadows with spotlights. My students learned that without undestanding the origin, shadow is just another word for dark.

Intuitively working on groups or series of five to fifteen paintings at a time, I then take an objective attitude with each. The paintings change with a fresh eye and deliberate introspection.

The tools and materials are chosen to maintain the autonomous characteristic of the paintings. Acrylic paints can be made very fluid while they retain firm structure. The colors can be made very translucent yet very dense. This will refract and reflect light, adding to the elusive space. I seldom use a brush.

Circles of Life

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Jack Lembeck

United States

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