“Babel Rising,” in which a tower of angular blocks rises up with a warm glow emanating from an unknown light source somewhere behind the tower; artist Richard Carter.
It’s a big year for artist Richard Carter. When he arrived to Aspen in 1971, after graduating from Villanova University, he found work as a studio assistant to legendary Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer. This year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus movement, and it’s being celebrated around the world. Carter’s expertise garnered from his close association to Bayer has put him in demand as a speaker and consultant, and he’s helped to plan many local events around the centennial.
In the spirit of seizing the moment, Carter opened a pop-up gallery a stone’s throw from the Aspen Art Museum, which he helped co-found in the ’70s (in its former location by the Roaring Fork River). It will feature his latest paintings, The Erratic Series. The paintings feature recognizable images as forms in distress. “The term ‘erratic’ suggests a situation where something is amiss or unstable or inappropriate,” says Carter. “These paintings are titled Erratics because they reflect an instability and sense of chaos that is circulating in our personal universes.”
The forms are monumental so as to reflect a reverence for the subject matter where the distress suggests a deep discomfort with the decay in current politics and social discord. This is a notion that is shared, on a subliminal level, by sculptor Martin Puryear, a favorite of Carter’s.
In these new paintings, Carter returns to his reliable material, masking tape, to define the shapes. Artists have been using tape to create crisp edges and straight lines for decades, but they would always pull the tape off and discard it, leaving only the shape the tape described. From the beginning, in a gesture that brings to mind integrity of process, Carter leaves much of the tape on the canvas and often carves it into graceful shapes and repeated images. The Erratic Series pieces are made of many layers of tape and then many layers of paint; they are a looming presence.
In past paintings, Carter was interested in space, but with the Erratics, he focuses on mass. Of course, mass has to exist within space, but Carter gives his space volume by delicately drawing in countless tiny dashes that describe energy flows, currents and eddies, and render the space visceral.
One piece, “Urban Erratic,” resembles an example of Brutalist architecture viewed from an oblique angle with a beautiful glow behind it and with graceful dashes swimming out from the unseen source of light, all in contrast to the imposing presence of the object itself. Another, “Vessel,” can be interpreted as the prow of a huge yellow vessel against a mottled, blood red sky with the dashes emanating from the unseen deck. The vessel is sailing on a black sea, with a jumbled grid of white lines suggesting more chaos than order.
People who are familiar with Carter’s work over the years know him to be a consummate craftsman and will see that he utilizes all the tools and skills that he has acquired over the decades in this new series. Those seeing his work for the first time will marvel at his marriage of painterly and drawing skills fused in the same images. 601 E. Hyman Ave.
Photography by: tony prikryl