For this solo exhibition we chose, with the artist, paintings from the period 1986 to the present. The thought is to try to illuminate the salient—but somewhat hard to describe—qualities of this distinctive work. This period goes back a handful of years prior to our meeting Steve Riedell and beginning to represent his work in the early 1990s, not long after he came to Philadelphia by way of New York City and Cincinnati Ohio. He was born in California in 1954 and studied at the respected Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. We chose to make somewhat of a “core sample” from this period, as some of the first works we saw in the studio preceded our actual meeting but held this sense of “ongoingness” which continues to the present, even through clear, very intentional changes in form and format. The works have a certain roughness, which turns out to be a very eloquent elegance. Though not representational, and very focused on paint properties and the action of painting, the work (whether quite small and boxy or expansive and made from delicately complex components) conveys a sense of gravity, both in physical reality as well as in the “presence.” that it carries. This is accomplished through a complex—seemingly illogical—process of simultaneously building out the support (unlike a standard painting stretcher) and meanwhile working innumerable layers of an oil paint and beeswax mixture (very thinned down, resulting in light-responsive translucent color) onto large pieces of canvas.
These elements are brought together, then the whole begins receiving more paint. And then, quite often the whole thing is taken apart again and entirely rebuilt, until more painting takes place...This goes on and on until the sought-after thing is “recognized” by the artist and finally now exists.
The painting may vaguely resemble an architectural element or a time or place remembered, but in each case this newly existing object is mysteriously evocative.The pages-long “Paintings List”, which forever lives and expands like an ancient scroll on his studio wall, holds the titles of the paintings finished over many years. It’s both a record and a source, and it’s maybe a verbal analogy to the layers and layers of light-capturing pigments that carry these paintings in an ongoing procession toward a destination that can be sensed but not named.