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Intersection of Color: Experience

Intersection of Color: Experience
signed with the artist's initials and dated 'RB 19' (on the reverse)
acrylic, oil and pastel on canvas
48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 152.4 cm.)
Executed in 2019.
Surovek Gallery, Palm Beach
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Head of Department

Lot Essay

A striking and layered contrast of crisp black forms and brushy pastels, Reggie Burrows Hodges’ Intersection of Color: Experience depicts a crowd of figures. Delicate yet deliberate strokes of buttery yellow, icy blue, peach illustrate the figures’ hats and clothing, thin lines of pastel form the figures’ sunglasses, dashed white lines create the contrast stitching of blue denim, all built upon the inky, monochromatic black surface that the artist first paints atop raw canvas.

Hodges carves figures out of the black ground, layered with painterly, foggy blocks of color to delineate the subjects from their surroundings and play with perception of focus. The artist explains of his process, “I start with a black ground [as a way] of dealing with blackness’s totality. I’m painting an environment in which the figures emerge from the negative space…if you see my paintings in person, you’ll look at depth” (R. Hodges, quoted in H. Als, “Nature Abhors A Vacuum,” Reggie Burrows Hodges, New York, 2021).

Hodges’ paintings explore storytelling and themes such as identity, community, and memory, pulling from his childhood growing up in Compton. Bodies emerge from the black painted ground, highlighting Hodges’ focus on the relationship between humans and their surroundings; Hodges’ soft and hazy brushwork creates a physical interpretation of the ambiguity of one’s memories. His figures, devoid of identifying features, are depicted in scenes of movement or leisurely activities like dancing, track and field, and tennis, recalling the artist’s background in sports – Hodges began his teaching career, not in the arts, but as a professional tennis coach for the United States Tennis Association/International Tennis Federation Pro Circuit. In the present work, the layered figures appear to be seated in rows resembling the depth and formation of stadium seating. The spectators, some shielded with sunglasses and others with wide-brimmed hats, face forward, as if watching a tennis match under the warm sun.

Hodges cites color-field masters such as Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko, and Milton Avery as inspiration. Avery, in particular, is one of the artist’s favorites – Hodges admires the colorist’s ability to resolve formal concerns with his work, paralleling Hodges’ attempt through layering and storytelling. Hodges sees Avery connect back to Impressionist greats Édouard Vuillard and Henri Matisse, who both depict figures in scenes of everyday life, as Hodges illustrates in his paintings of figures seated on the couch, lounging by the pool, applying makeup in the mirror, jumping hurdles, observing a game. Hodges is also interested in “…artists that allow black to perform within their paintings…” drawing the artist to the works of Marsden Hartley and Alex Katz (R. Hodges, quoted in S. McAvoy, “Some Holes Can’t Be Filled,” 18 November 2020).

Writer, curator, and critic Hilton Als observes, “What Hodges’s characters are pushing up past and through: the idea that blackness is ‘heavy,’ politically, artistically, and otherwise…the painting is an exploration, first and foremost, of that most elemental of the artist’s endeavors: paint. What does this color look like next to that color…what this teaches us about painting, and Hodges’ in particular, is that he does admit the viewer into his work, and wholeheartedly, once you get past your preconceptions about blackness, and what it’s supposed to mean, either as ‘pure’ paint, or as a figure” (H. Als, “Nature Abhors a Vacuum,” Reggie Burrows Hodges, New York, 2021). Hodges brings viewers into the work, asking them to help shape the misty scenes he builds with the paint through the recalling and recovering of one’s memories.

Following Hodges’ critically acclaimed New York debut at Karma last year, the artist will open a solo exhibition at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art this coming May. Hodges received the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation Fellowship in 2019, the Joan Mitchell Painters & Sculptors Grant in 2020, and the Jacob Lawrence Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2021. His work is housed in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris, among others.

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