Friday, Laura and I spent a fantastic night out on the town soaking up some art. Our first stop of the evening was to see Russell U. Richard's exhibit at the McGuffey Art Center titled "The Arts and Innards of Russell U. Richards!" This was a long awaited for show for Russell. Simply put, this show made McGuffey look better than I have ever seen it. Russell provided the full package. His artwork electrified the space (more on that in a sec.), but what also shined was the execution of the entire concept. It's the little things. Russell clearly put a lot of thought, time and effort into the organization and hanging of the show. Each piece was beautifully framed, hung precisely and lit perfectly. Too often I have been to McGuffey (and a variety of other galleries) and seen lighting for crap and hanging so poor that I couldn't bear to look at the work on the walls. Note to all artists: Presentation is a significant part of your work. Put some forethought into it as you create your work. It can make or break an otherwise excellent piece of artwork.
Back to Russell... I have been aware of his work since first arriving in Charlottesville 8+ years ago and visiting McGuffey where he has his studio. I liked it then. I love it now. Initially, I found myself confused by his frenetic assemblage of lines and flat shapes and colors. But now I see the importance of the overlapping outlines of his comic-style people and creatures as a process of weaving and layering that ties them all together and tells a multi-faceted graphic tale captured in one frame.
This work is comic book-like, but it is not for children... or the faint of heart. From afar, the images and concepts are apparent - colorful people, gardens, paths, rooms, monsters, buildings, machines, games, etc. But closer inspection reveals the real Russell. He is telling a graphic and often mystical tale. Much of it is related to his own trying times, but there is plenty about the varied and twisted world he sees around him. It is a fantastical journey and a beautiful visual story.
Russell has the heart and style of the greatest folk artists past and present (think Howard Finster), but he also exhibits the skills of the most refined MFA graduates. Russell executes his complex ideas with a precise and beautiful craft, and it speaks in a clear and creative visual language. I am a fan.
Russell Richards is an artist known for his fantastical and imaginative imagery. "The Arts and Innards of Russell U. Richards!" is both an art book and memoir tracing his struggles with a devastating chronic illness, and how art helped him live through it, with beautiful full-color reproductions throughout. “Russell Richards’ work is electrifying- sometimes brutal, and always uncompromising. Yet his violent and erotically charged world is tempered with a wry sense of humor (served black.) His complex and original visions have left me gasping for breath and lusting for more for almost 20 years.” -- Daniel Zimmer
See the exhibit. But Russell's art. If you can't get to Charlottesville, buy the book here. $35.00
Images include: Top, Halloween; Middle, Nude Pool; Bottom, The Arts and Innards of Russell U. Richards (book cover)