Joseph Raffael: Moving Toward the Light

September 10, 2015 - October 24, 2015

“Moving Toward the Light” is the title of a just-published book on Joseph Raffael, as well as the title of one of his newest, most ambitious works. Known for his monumental watercolors celebrating nature, the artist’s work of the past three years continues to push into new terrain. Taking the viewer deeper and deeper into the mysteries of nature, Raffael remains ever the explorer of what the eye cannot behold, be it with blossoming branches in a profusion of blues, or palm fronds of greens, greys, silvers and lavenders. Like an explorer combing the depths of the sea for wonders below, Raffael captures on his camera in an instant, wonders that surround him at his home and in his garden in France, transforming what he sees into a heightened vision in watercolor. Everything he paints is part of his quotidian universe.

Thirty years ago, Joseph Raffael and his wife Lannis moved to the South of France, wanting to simplify life for Joseph to devote himself to painting without distraction. Over this time, the couple, who live in a simple home overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, have created what might be called an earthly paradise. Lannis planted a garden with flowers every color of the rainbow in the midst of ancient trees, bushes and succulents. They created two koi ponds on the property, framed by stones the Mediterranean has washed smooth. The flowering plants matured, the carp grew large, the birds in the outdoor aviaries multiplied. It is this paradise teeming with life force that provides the artist with his subjects: flowers, koi, birds, shells, the abundance of the gardens that surround them.

Raffael photographs his world, zeroing in on what interests him. A selection process follows during which he views and reviews images and decides what to paint next. From the photograph he makes a “map” only he can follow, and then begins to paint in a unique and intuitive fashion in watercolor. He paints wet into wet, puddles the paint, surrounds images with an “inner frame” of paint, celebratory of the act of painting. While the works have a freshness and spontaneity, they take him months to paint as he carefully weaves tapestries of color in paint on paper. These are watercolors like no others, rich, sumptuous, saturated, luminous.

During the past three years (while the book has been in progress) the artist began a dialogue with writer David Pagel on the subject of Beauty. The email dialogue continued over many months, and has turned into a long exploration on the subject of beauty and creativity, a hand-in-hand accompaniment to the deepening of the artist’s work.

The artist writes to David Pagel:

“I’ve been in the deepest waters of the Beauty Sea of this current painting. It’s definitely an ultimate work for me as I move toward the light. In fact, I decided it’s going to be called “Moving Toward the Light I“ and there will be another one following this, (what am I mad?) (you mean there’s going to be a “Moving Toward the Light II”?).

In any case, it’s not that I’m lost in the depths, it’s that I find myself in the midst of the

most profound painting mystery I have ever experienced. In a way, I feel our Beauty conversation is finding a physical expression in this painting. The finding and exploring where beauty resides is taking place. Spring is just moments away. The birth is opening upon the painting surface. Now back to the madness of creation...”

Following his last gallery exhibition “JR @80,” his most recent works reveal that light is the artist’s prime subject of exploration and interest. Pervading each image is the pure light that emanates from his brush, as well as from the sun that shines over the sea where he resides. Measuring 5x8 feet, these commanding works encompass the viewer in a world the eye alone cannot behold in nature. They invite the viewer into moments of discovery, thought and contemplation, of music, of harmony, of peace and quiet. Simply stated Raffael’s new work is a celebration of life.

Joseph Raffael was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933. He attended Cooper Union, New York and received his B.F.A. from Yale School of Fine Arts. While at Yale he studied with Josef Albers. He also received a Fulbright Fellowship to Florence and Rome.

The artist’s work has been exhibited in this country at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; ARCO Center for Visual Art, Los Angeles; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock; The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi; Arts Center Galleries, Old Forge, New York; Arvada Art Center, Denver, Colorado; Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, Neenah, Wisconsin; The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; The Canton Museum of Art, Ohio; City University of New York, Baruch College; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; Davenport Museum of Art, Iowa; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; The Denver Art Museum, Colorado; Elvehjem Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin; Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, Indiana; Flint Institute of Arts, Michigan; Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, Colorado; Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Indiana; Gibbs Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina, Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee; The Jacksonville Museum, Florida; Las Vegas Museum of Art, Nevada; Minnesota Museum of Art, St. Paul; Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Museum of Art, Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, Saint Louis; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Academy of Design, New York; Newport Art Museum, Rhode Island; Newport Harbor Art Museum, California; Oklahoma City Art Museum, Oklahoma; Parkland Art Gallery, Parkland College, Champaign, Illinois; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, Florida; San Francisco International Airport, California; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; Scottsdale Art Center, Arizona; Sioux City Art Center, Iowa; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, California; State University of New York, Stony Brook; Tucson Museum of Art, Arizona; Wichita Art Museum, Kansas; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin; among other institutions. His work has also been shown at the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, France; Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan; National Museum in Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland; and in Japan at Fukui City Art Museum; Hokodate Museum of Art, Hokkaido; Iwaki City Museum; Iwate Prefectural Museum; Isetan Museum of Art, Tokyo; Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art; Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai; Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama; Sogo Museum of Art; Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts; Tokushima Modern Art Museum; Museum of Modern Art, Shiba; and Kochi Prefectural Museum of Folk Art.

Raffael’s work is represented in many museum collections, among them: Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania; The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida; Bauer Museum of Art, Valparaiso, Indiana; The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; The Canton Museum of Art, Ohio; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; The Denver Art Museum, Colorado; Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York; Fort Worth Art Museum, Texas; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii; Jacksonville Art Museum, Florida; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska; Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, Illinois; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Long Beach Museum, California; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida; Museum of Outdoor Art, Englewood, Colorado; National Collection of Fine Arts of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Oakland Museum, California; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; Rahr West Art Museum, Manitowoc, Wisconsin; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California; J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky; The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio; Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Maryland; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Two special editions of the book “Moving Toward the Light” are available only at Nancy Hoffman Gallery, with a book plate designed by the artist: one signed in watercolor, the other signed and dedicated with watercolor strokes unique to each copy. The book reproduces 88 works in rich color with three excellent essays: by Lanie Goodman on the artist’s life; by Betsy Dillard Stroud, a dialogue on the artist’s work, artist-to-artist; and by David Pagel, art critic for the Los Angeles Times, on the philosophy of beauty.

For information and/or photographs, please call the gallery at 212-966-6676 or email at info@nancyhoffmangallery .com

Yours sincerely,

Nancy Hoffman