Technicolor Tobey

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, opus 1743, Under Water, acrylic, 2012

Q: You seem to work from a lot of open improvisation in your new work. What are you major influences.

ReeL: There are a few different strains that feed into not only my work but other painters currently working in these improvisational modes.  Rafael Rubinstein has talked about this direction in painting a number of times.  He seems to be pushing Oehlen’s work at the moment.

But one strain starts more or less with Hans Hartung, who worked 

more or less under the radar. He is now seen by some as a precursor to Pollack.  For myself I was heavily influenced by Mark Tobey  when I was growing up.  I was very impressed by his so-called “white writing” late work when I was an early teenager.  The whole Northwest Four as we mentioned earlier were a huge presence in the Seattle of my youth.

Q: You have a small series named after Tobey, the Technicolor Tobey paintings.

ReeL: Yes,. I once told my mother that I was going to do a “technicolor Tobey” painting when I grew up. You see, a lot of painters in Seattle, including Tobey’s white writing work, used a lot of umbers, ochres, white, and a touch of siena here and there..  A lot of  mixed grays, umber and white, pure white highlights. A very somber palette.  Technicolor movies were a big thing, so I thought, I’d like to do something like the white writing Tobeys only in a full color palette, in living color, in technicolor.  My mother thought that was pretty funny.  This is right around the time I met Kenneth Callahan. I might have mentioned this to Callahan, too; I remember him laughing at something along these lines.


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