Impending Presence: Recent Works of Ron Clark
To become an artist, Ron Clark has traveled an unconventional route. Rather than following the familiar path taken by many emerging artists,Clark’s development has featured an immersion in the contemporary art world, with a unique relationship to a renowned artist, and his own intensive and wide-ranging studies in art and design. The result has been a career as a painter characterized by almost instant success in both exhibiting his work and selling it to collectors.
Ron Clark was born in 1948 in Idabel, in the Red River Valley of Oklahoma. As a child in this agrarian town, one summer morning he discovered a painter at work on a mural-sized canvas in his studio in a vacant bakery. The artist – still one of Clark’s closest friends and confidants – was Harold Stevenson, the prominent American Surrealist who took part in Sidney Janis’s legendary New Realists exhibition along with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Cales Oldenburg. The chance meeting with Stevenson proved to be a crucial first step in Clark’s multi-disciplinary education as an artist.
Gifted with drawing skills as a child, Clark had been born into an environment of music (his father was an amateur jazz musician, his uncle a professional opera tenor), and thus his homelife was the initial source of his artistic inspiration. Clark studied the classical piano for ten years, was an All-State trumpet player, and was in rock and jazz groups.
As an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma, Clark first studied architecture, and then graphic design, both of which would later inform his paintings. After working as a graphic designer in Dallas and Houston, he moved to New York, and studied for two years in the BFA program at Parsons School of Design in New York, majoring in visual communications and modern art history. Particularly formative was Clark’s exposure to Cubism, Futurism, and Russian Constructivism. The work of Malevich and Rothko remain particularly important influences. Absorbed in the New York art and design world, Clark worked in design studios, as a gallery assistant for prestigious exhibitions, and earned extra money as a pastel portraitist.
In the 1990’s, Clark worked as a graphic designer, and later was the creative director of a Dallas advertising agency, before heading his own design firm. Working with editorial and fashion photographers, he developed his sensibilities for the principles of light, a central element in the paintings he would soon develop. In 1995, Clark began Pitturas Metaphysica, a series of paintings that combines minimalist imagery from the I Ching with expanses of radiant color. A series that Clark began in 2000, Body of the Diagram, drew upon his interest in early modernist painting, architecture, and forms of the human body. Impending Presence, his current series, takes the viewer through three phases, from primal chaos, to creative formation, to a floating, ethereal realm. These works display vivid fields of color that emanate from the highly textured surfaces of the paintings, through a complex process of layering of modeling paste, metallic paint, and oil color. In the subtle, shifting luminescence of this work, the viewer is immersed in the drama of form coalescing from fluid atmospheres of light.
Clark is represented by the Southwest Gallery in Dallas, the Gallery SoCo in Austin, the SoHo Myriad Art Consultants in Atlanta, Los Angeles, West Palm, and London, and the 4Star Gallery in Indianapolis. Since 1997, Clark has showcased his work in 15 exhibitions, including one-man shows at the Southwest Gallery, the MSC Visual Arts Gallery at Texas A&M University, the Dupree Theater Gallery at the Irving Arts Center in Irving, TX, the 4Star Gallery, the Parkersburg Art Center in Parkersburg, WV, the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, TX, and the Gallery SoCo. His group shows include the Dallas Visual Art Center Annual Show in 1999, the Dallas Critics' Choice Show at the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art in 2000, and, most recently, The New Abstractionists exhibition at the Walter Wickiser Gallery in New York. Clark’s work is part of a number of private collections. The artist lives and works in Plano, TX, with his wife and three children.
Impending Presence, a cycle of paintings, explores the mystery of form and consciousness emerging from the chaos of formlessness. In these abstract works, fields of rich color shift and coalesce, playing out before the viewer’s eyes the drama of creation itself.
Impending Presence has three distinct phases. In the beginning is a state of barely undifferentiated matter, a claustrophobic, organic world, embodied in a group of earth-toned canvases. In the second phase, a charged dialogue starts with the separation of the space into diffused zones of saturated color. Here powerful forces contend, bringing a world into being. In the final phase, a release from this creative struggle, the viewer enters an ethereal realm of sky or water.
The paintings develop in an intensive, layered process. Modeling paste, bladed onto gessoed canvas, forms a textured topographical surface that becomes the composition’s foundation. Metallic oil paint is then applied, followed by washes of color, that are successively sanded and reapplied. The result of these many stages is a complex atmosphere of luminous color. The metallic paint creates an iridescent ground that changes its appearance depending upon one’s vantage point.
Impending Presence is a series that seeks to draw the viewer in, to experience the paintings both as microcosms, on the level of subtle textures and tiny metallic particles, and as macrocosms, complete pictorial visions. With this work, the viewer is invited on a journey that is at once human and spiritual. We begin in the primordial depths, where there is no mind, only physicality and energy. We travel through an inner landscape of constant cosmic and personal transformation. And in the end, we arrive at a place of clarity, the vivid tranquility of consciousness.
This exhibit is organized by Katharine T. Carter and Associates.