Ronnie Landfield

Ronnie Landfield, In the studio; photo by Ed Watkins, August 2019

I have had a wonderful and successful career as a painter since 1965. My work is rooted in the modernist tradition of 20th-Century art.
My inspiration has been my conviction that modern painting is fueled by the combination of tradition and the realities of modern life. Spirituality and feeling are the basic subjects of my work. They are depictions of intuitive expressions using color as language, and the landscape (God’s earth) as a metaphor for the arena of life. The revelation of a primal image that delivers an immediate response in the viewer is my goal. Hopefully my paintings convey a felt perception of life, an awareness of the history of art, and a clear expression of my passion and sense of spirituality. I sense a visual music that externalizes what I feel within me and in the air.
As a teenager I was inspired to pursue a career as an artist. When I was about fourteen I made my first real paintings. Monet, Van Gogh, Matisse, Miro and especially Picasso and the Abstract Expressionists were important influences on my work. In 1961 I was inspired by a Life Magazine article on the Abstract Expressionists notably: Pollock, de Kooning, Gottlieb, Hofmann, Rothko, Still, Motherwell and Kline.
After several stints at the Art Students League, and a brief college career at the Kansas City Art Institute (1963), The San Francisco Art Institute (1964-65), and the University of California at Berkeley (1964), my professional life as a painter began in New York City during the Summer of 1965. During the summer and early fall of 1965 I rented several apartments and lofts on the Lower East Side. Finally in November 1965 I rented a loft with a friend of mine (a sculptor) in a building on Spring Street and Lower Broadway in Manhattan. A period of hardship including a devastating studio fire in February 1966 followed. I wrote a letter to the architect Philip Johnson and we had a meeting in his office in March 1966. The late Mr. Johnson was enormously encouraging and inspiring and he suggested that when I made some paintings I show them to him. I got a job in an advertising agency working as a commercial artist and I returned to painting in April 1966 by sharing a loft with another former classmate Dan Christensen at 4 Great Jones Street. The Border Painting Series was completed in July 1966, and soon after architect Philip Johnson acquired a painting: Tan Painting for the permanent collection of The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska. Philip Johnson became my first important patron.

Ronnie Landfield, in the studio, 94 Bowery, NYC; November 1969 photo by Melissa Shook

When I was nineteen, by the Fall of 1966, after completing a major series of hard-edge border paintings, success as a painter began to materialize. The famous architect and collector Philip Johnson and the famous collector Robert Scull each acquired large paintings of mine. The Sheldon Memorial Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska acquired a painting of mine for its permanent collection. My circle of artistic friends and colleagues continued to grow throughout this period.
During the summer of 1967 when I was twenty, I rented a studio on the Bowery where I continued painting large abstract paintings. I was invited to participate in the Whitney Annual at the end of the year. My painting The Howl of Terror, hung opposite the Larry Poons painting and Larry and I met and became friends. I had two drawings and two poems published by the Letter Edged in Black Press. My work attracted considerable attention and I was invited to participate in important group exhibitions at the Bykert, Bianchini, and Park Place Galleries in New York; and my work was included in several publications notably an Esquire Magazine article on young artists in the Robert Scull collection.
I had a series of different and interesting jobs, from 1965 through the Fall of 1968. I worked for the Something Else Press, where I was introduced to Concrete Poetry and Conceptual Art. I was a commercial artist in an advertising agency, and I met many excellent illustrators. I worked for an art delivery service and I also worked for several art galleries, (Pace, Kornblee), helping them hang and install exhibitions.
In April 1968 I was included in an important Newsweek Magazine article on my generation of young artists with a color reproduction of my abstract landscape painting Cheat River. In the Fall of 1968, I was a guest instructor of painting at Bennington College in Vermont. As a regular at Max’s Kansas City from 1966 to 1970 as well as in the seventies , the Spring St. Bar and One University Place, I met and befriended many of the great artists and interesting characters of my time.
In 1969, I was awarded the William and Noma Copley (Cassandra) Foundation Grant in painting and I was invited to publish a silk-screen print for Rosa Esman’s New York Ten portfolio. I joined the David Whitney Gallery in the Spring, and mine was the first one-man show at his new gallery in October 1969. My painting Diamond Lake 1969, 108 x 168 inches, was acquired from Philip Johnson by the Museum of Modern Art in 1972 and was installed in the lobby of MoMA for several months. My painting Elijah 1969, 108 x 55 inches was exhibited in Beijing, China for a few years in the early nineties. These abstract landscapes of 1968 -1969 and what followed constitute my most original and my most important contributions to the history of contemporary painting. During the late 1960s through the early 1970s, I was included in important exhibitions all over the country including at the Museum of Modern Art and the first Whitney Biennial in 1973. I was in a two-man show at the David Whitney Gallery in 1970 (with Neil Jenney) and I had my second one-man show there in May, 1971. During the period between 1970 and 1971 I also had solo exhibitions with the Joseph Helman Gallery in St. Louis, the New Gallery in Cleveland, the Jack Glenn Gallery in Corona Del Mar, CA. and with Jim and Betty Corcoran Gallery in Coral Gables.
When I began to show my work with David Whitney in 1969, I was painting stained abstractions, bordered by bands of color painted on the edges. I experimented with calligraphy and gestures painted in the bands. Often the stained areas are organized as landscape; with sky at the top, a middle section that looks like mountains with a horizon line and the ground at the bottom.
The two major tendencies in my work were landscape and linear abstractions. My natural tendency was toward color and abstraction. The two tendencies in my work came together in my stained band paintings that I have continued to this day. I paint abstract landscapes to express my feelings that nature which symbolizes truth, beauty and freedom to me is endangered by indifference, overdevelopment and ecological disaster.
By 1970, my work had been shown on both coasts in the United States and in West Germany. Toward the Unknown, 1969, a dark blue, 9′ x 14′, painting of mine was acquired by the Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen in Munich, and Diamond Lake, 1969, a 9 x 14′ stained band painting of mine was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and in 1972 was exhibited in the lobby for about a year.  My paintings were included in many group shows all over the world and were also included in several art magazine articles and publications. By the time I joined Andre Emmerich’s Gallery I was at twenty five, already a veteran with six solo shows, numerous appearances in important museum exhibitions including two Whitney Biennials and my work was in several permanent and private collections. I exhibited my work at the Andre Emmerich Gallery from 1972 until 1977. I had one-man shows there in 1973, 1974, and 1975. I also had solo shows with the Janie C. Lee Gallery in Houston and Jim and Betty Corcoran Gallery in Coral Gables.
My work is intuitive, color is the language I use to express my feelings. Nature inspires the imagery in my paintings and they are expressions of spirit, informed and guided by God. When my paintings succeed they express the mystery of the spirit, emotions, reverence of the awesome power of the universe, through surface, shapes and color. When they matter they realize what I feel within me and touch the observer through positive emotion. The thing is they are always changing.
I’ve always admired Chinese Landscape painting for its beauty, elegance, simplicity and complexity. I admire it because it contains multiple painting styles; (combining geometric boxes (chops), borders and calligraphy;) with landscape techniques that are remarkably similar to modern stain painting. In retrospect, I have realized what an important inspiration Chinese Landscape painting has also been to my work.
In the years since my first solo exhibition in 1969, I have had more than seventy-five solo exhibitions. My paintings are in the permanent collections of major museums and universities throughout the country. My work is also in many private and corporate collections.

Ronnie Landfield, Edge of the River, 2019, 44×94 inches, on exhibition October 2019 at The Findlay Gallery, 724 Fifth Avenue, NYC
Ronnie Landfield, Coming Home, 2019, 46×51 inches, on exhibition October 2019 at The Findlay Gallery, 724 Fifth Avenue, NYC
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  1. “My work is intuitive, color is the language I use to express my feelings. Nature inspires the imagery in my paintings and they are expressions of spirit, informed and guided by God. ”
    It is good to read an artist with the guts to actually say what we all know to be true. this is why we love to paint!