Richard Carter’s New Angle
The Aspen Times
If You Go…
What: Richard Carter, ‘Mandalas Considered’
Where: R2 Gallery in the Launchpad, Carbondale
When: Friday, June 3 through Friday, June 24; opening reception Friday, 6-8 p.m.; public interview with Lissa Ballinger of the Aspen Institute, June 23, 5:30 p.m.
More info: www.carbondalearts.com
What: Richard Carter, James Surls, Jody Guralnick, Chris Hassig, ‘Drawings’
Where: The Art Base, Basalt
When: Friday, June 10 through Saturday, July 2; opening reception June 10, 5-7 p.m.
More info: www.theartbase.org
When a good idea finds Richard Carter, it often doesn’t let go.
Such was the case with his “Mandalas Considered” series, which consumed the Basalt-based painter for more than two years. A mandala — the Eastern religious symbol — might seem an unlikely point of inspiration for Carter, who is not religious and whose work has largely been concerned with science and natural phenomena.
“I’m not hooked into Buddhism or anything like that, but the form of it got my attention,” Carter said on a recent afternoon in his meticulously organized Basalt studio, where dozens of the new paintings were stacked against the walls.
Carter’s painting career over the last three decades has progressed in mostly distinct periods: his signature “geometry paintings,” followed by works focused on the night sky, icebergs, lightning and fire. “Really that’s what my whole universal approach to painting is about — what’s going on in the universe?” he said. “Everything from subatomic to astrophysics. It’s all the same glue holding this stuff together.”
“Mandalas Considered,” opening Friday at the R2 Gallery in Carbondale, features a selection of the 50-plus paintings in the series. One-third of the proceeds from the show will go to Carbondale Arts.
As he embarked on the project, Carter, consciously or not, began working with some clear constraints: square panels, with centered images, and heavily saturated colors.
“I wanted to be able to draw on the paintings, and I wanted to go back to what I was doing early in my career, which was the centered image,” he explained. “So I wanted to use it as a template and I wanted to do asymmetrical things.”
He cycled through centered images from geometry, then tried Japanese symbols, then Celtic ones. He compared this kind of experimentation to using the scientific method for art. Carter’s colors began with the bold and bright, eventually moving into the muted blacks, reds and yellows of Russian Constructivism. His “Modern Mandala” brings midcentury modern visual vocabulary to the format.
This new body of work, in some ways, returns Carter to his roots. As an assistant to Bauhaus great Herbert Bayer in 1971, Carter was making wood reliefs of geometric shapes. Those pieces earned Carter, who didn’t attend art school, his job.
Carter is now 70, the same age Bayer was when Carter met him and began his seven-year apprenticeship. The echo of Bayer’s geometrical style is unmistakable in “Mandalas Considered.”
“It was better than art school, it was learning on the job,” he said of his years with Bayer.
The show will also include nine intricate abstract graphite drawings.
They were inspired when he was frying pine nuts for a salad, forming a pattern that interested him. In the drawings, they could be feathers or stones or a flame — there’s something universal about them, not unlike a mandala or other recurring shapes in Richard Carter’s work.
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