The following text was was given to John Regan by the artist, and submitted in July of 2006:
Statement by Paul Reed, transcribed from audiotape, and created to accompany a catalogue of computer prints of his work from 1959 through 2005.
In the 1940’s, I worked in advertising agencies in and around New York City. While I was there, I visited the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan, the Whitney, and the Guggenheim. In 1950, I returned to Washington to establish a free lance graphic design business. I became reacquainted with Gene Davis, and during our lunch hours, we would go to museums, mainly the Phillips, the National, and the private galleries (the Jefferson Place Gallery and others). During periodic visits back to New York to the museums, I became aware of the work of Pollock, de Kooning, Kline, Clyfford Still, Rothko, Rinehart, Jasper Johns, and Barnett Newman. I then decided that I would start painting – oil on canvas, mainly abstract expressionistic style, oil on masonite, and works on paper, watercolor and gouache. When the acrylic colors came in, first there was magna which is a resin, an oil-based resin. And then later, around 1958, the water-based acrylics. In 1959, I started staining canvas, wetting the canvas, pouring the paint on and letting it bleed. This evolved into a Mandela shape and then later biomorphic hard-edged shapes. I exhibited these painting in the Adams Morgan Gallery in Washington in 1963, and in New York City at the East Hampton Gallery, also in 1963.
In 1964, I made 40 studies in the disc format of 7x5 inches. In 1965, I selected from these studies and made water-acrylic paintings on canvas, unprimed canvas. These ranged in size from 24x18 inches up to 7x9 feet. They were included in a show called the Washington Color Painters, which was organized by Gerald Nordland at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art and traveled across the country to various museums in 1965 an 1966. In 1966, I was given a one-man show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art exclusively of disc paintings. In 1965, I decided to stop painting the disc paintings.
In 1966, I started a series called “Upstart,” which consisted of banded paintings. They were sort of very free and open paintings. I had seen Pollock’s “Blue Poles” and thought that I would cadence bands across a horizontal surface. Many of the paintings turned out to be vertical paintings where they sort of rose up from a base. The “Gilport” series consists of two-part paintings with sketches of a one-foot square going up to 12 feet square, from five, seven, nine, twelve, and acrylic on canvas. Shaped canvas nailed directly to the wall.
From 1966 through 1969, I worked with Bill Truitt on welded steel sculpture. Bill was a professional welder. I would design it and he would finish it; Bill would put it together. The largest of these went up to about five feet.
In the beginning of 1973, I started to teach at the Corcoran School of Art and had to move from my large studio where I had done the “Gilport” paintings. I moved everything home and began to work with oil pastels on charcoal paper. I liked the idea of feeling the touch of the paper, the texture, and the surface.
When I was at the Arizona State University making a lithographic print, I looked out the window and the football stadium looked like a large model on top of the School of Architecture. This gave me the idea of juxtaposing disparate subjects – natural versus cultural, a flower and an automobile. What I called the quad photos. I took and ordinary 4x6 print, color print, and reversed the negative so that you have a mirror image or a reflection of the original image. And then you begin to have geometry. And then, if you do that with a different subject matter, you can begin to tell a story between the two.
The mosaic photographs, this one is the National Gallery of Art, and the David Smith show, are something that started when they took the sequential photographs of the surface of the moon as they flew over it at close range. And then the overlapping prints are mounted into the mosaic so that you have a panoramic view of the surface. Rodin talks about this in relation to his work and that you look at the parts as against the whole. And the idea is that we see in takes. The angle of the eye is fifty degrees, and we move from section to section. We have the peripheral vision, but we do takes.
And the gouache paintings resulting in working with Joe Segura at the Arizona State University research facility, print research facility, where he showed me the technique of monoprints. The gouache paintings are from 9x12 inches up to 3x8 feet. It was a process that ended up spraying ink on a 4x5 sheet of plexiglas and scraping what would be the white areas of the paper and then printing by hand, offsetting the ink onto the paper. These are what I call the gouache paintings. Opaque watercolor, they are done with block printing, water printing, and water-based silk screening. A very extended series is going up to 1994 using multiple sheets in order to get the scale.
During the eighties and nineties, I did what I call my stone portraits. They are found objects in many cases, nothing at all done to the surface. But, they were classical sculptures or the style of the sculptors, Rodin, Giacometti, and Boccioni. Whenever I would travel, like when I was in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is 7,000 feet in elevation and has wonderful out croppings of rock just almost everywhere you look, there were different kinds and very curious shapes. That was very interesting. I don’t do it anymore, but in creek beds, just almost everywhere, there are stones that look like people or classical sculpture.
In making the photographs for the quad photos over a long period of time, I took various subjects, in this case a flower which had been manipulated on the computer. In late 1994, I returned to acrylic on canvas bringing over the scraping technique of the gouaches. Then I went back to a very thin layering of acrylic color on canvas as the very beginning of my acrylic on canvas in the late fifties. I started out small, one-foot square and then went up in size to 4x11 feet. Thin paint, very thin paint, transparent glazes, and then very thick paint contrasting the thin.
In June 1999, I started a series of paintings, beginning with “Valdois.” These paintings evolved to contain a platform shape on a field. Some of them reminded me of classical art, such as any June, 2001, painting “Boden” which resembled “The Lodge” by Renoir. Sometimes the platform resembles a hand, flag, sail, raft, etc. In July, 2003, I started making sculptures of the platform shape. I then superimposed it on some of my earlier photography and paintings.
Paul Reed, November 2003