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 Hulbert Waldroup  (20th century)

About: Hulbert Waldroup


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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: urban surrealism

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from

I am always thinking about art, particularly painting. I don't need to be asked about it or my painting to be thinking of it. Even when I'm not at work, perhaps I'm doing something other than painting, my mind is on the latter.
The more I paint, the more I want to paint. It's seems its burning within me. When I hold that brush in my hand, I want to go further. I want to explore. The longing to paint controls me. I have to pick up my brush every day.

Once in a conversation with two of my friends, a painter and a writer, the comparison of art with a jealous lover came up. I thought it was a good symbol or metaphor for what many artists struggle with, or at least I know I do, and that struggle is time. There is the pull to socialize; You have to make time for friends, for family, for relationships in general. What do you do when you simply have to be away from the canvas simply to gain perspective? But the passion to paint, to write, and to compose, as I think it has been for all artists throughout the ages, always wins. Your friends, your family, any relationship automatically sets itself up in competition for your attention. This is often too why the artist gets accused, unfairly, as being selfish.
When the artist is before the canvas with brush in hand, there is energy being expended that's unlike the energy expended by millions every day on their jobs.

When the artist has a brush in his or her hand, it's that energy which is really only a combination of the emotions and the cognition--what the theologians have referred to as the soul--that is taking what the imagination has seen from where it has been, and if and only if everything is in sync, brings some kind of order to it. That order, as it has been worked out, cognitively and emotionally, becomes concrete reality on the canvas. Wherever the imagination has been and whatever it has seen, is made real, earthly, and comprehensible by this process.

I think this is why some artists, aestheticians, and art critics have referred to the spiritual nature of art. This is how a great work of art is made, or, if you prefer, created. All those elements, those ingredients have to be present, to be working properly.

Surrealism is where art begins for me. It opened up all other doors to art of this century, that is, the whole of modernism. Yet I continually return and return again to surrealism and especially to the work of its founder, Salvador Dali.

As an American growing up in a Large city, my experience is urban. That's how it is, too, for the majority of the population. That's why I believe it would be unauthentic for me to paint landscapes or nature.

The landscape of the twentieth century is urban. As is commonly known, it's cities that have inspired, often subtlety in this century more than in any other that preceded it, greatness in art, architecture, music, novels, and plays. Thus the urban landscape, of which I am intimately acquainted with, is not a weakness. It's a source of strength.

Of all styles of art modernism has produced, surrealism, I believe is the most viable and potent to express the reality and the truth of urban life and culture. Why? It is because, through my understanding of surrealism, what Dali and Magritte was to transform reality and show us there interpretation of it. It's like taking a garment and turning it inside out revealing the truth in how it was made.

I want to do the same for the urban experience. I am going to turn it inside-out and tell you, "This is what it is, what it is made of, and if my muse is kind to me, what it means to us all." That is what I want my paintings to express.

About Hulbert Waldroup
by William Coombe

The current oeuvre of the American artist Hulbert Waldroup, while it may indeed, according to some critics, not lend itself to easy classification, is that of a postmodernist who brings realism and surrealism unwillingly, that is, one might say, kicking and screaming, into the present. But we are not jarred. Rather we are intrigued.

His magnet is not in how he uses the brush or even in his use of color. The view is intrigued by and attracted to the canvases because in both his realism and surrealism he is mistakably urban and industrial. Everything is laid out and mapped out for us. They are deceptively simple as is there is no mystery. What we sense and sometimes feel exuding from the figures, from the colors, from the lines and symmetry, find its provenance directly in the landscape of the typical American city. The images come from anywhere, from anything. His realism, as in Beware of Rats (1999) is street-smart and street wise. There is nothing that makes it temporal: It's true, therefore it is.

What we discover in his portraits therefore should not surprise us. His women are shifty subjects. They, too, have suggestive power. The divergence, however, comes in their unsympathetic portrayal and the fact that they cannot be admired for their psychological depth. They are admirable for the way the subject has not been allowed to control the emotional temperature of the scene. We wonder who is viewing whom. It's only because of that that we can never use the word voyeuristic. The women only reluctantly allow the artist his subjects.

All painting, Cezanne said, is yielding to or resisting the air. Waldroup resists the air. It's the only sure way that he can incorporate the city, where the majority of us live, and take the banality that thrives in our urban environment, transform it, and give it back to us as something meaningful and intelligible.

Around the Coyote Group Show, 1999
The Studio Group Show, 1999
Gallery on the Pier Group Show, 1998
Enchanted Easel Group Show, 1998
American Society of Artists', 1998
Corosh Gallery Solo Show, 1998
Gold Coast Art Show, 1996, 1997, 1998
Excalibar Night Club Group Show, 1997

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