Artists have hungry eyes and their observations on the world builds a lexicon of their own artistic language. D. Jack Solomon has spent a lifetime using this visual language in his painting process. In a career beginning in California and then gradually moving eastward, Solomon was artist in residence and taught at several colleges, his work is held in public and private art collections and featured in major exhibitions across the United States.
Solomon’s one person exhibit “Likely Story” at The Lockwood Gallery in Kingston, New York focuses on his “Funny Paper” series, as well as the “Small Talk” series and abstracts, making up a serious late-period retrospective of 40 paintings. The artworks across this timespan from 2002 through 2017 have been curated to create a cohesive exhibit from an artist that has continuously been recognized for his work since the 1960’s.
The “Funny Paper” series is the star of the show though; prominently placed in the gallery entrance is a large triptych, “Funny Paper Revisited #2.” I noted Solomon’s process of working in layering techniques, whether it is tonal qualities or shapes placed to convey dimensionality, the work is complex and multi-layered. Solomon began using the gift of 1945 newspaper comics as collage inspirations as early as 2002 when the original “Funny Paper” series was created. By removing the comic characters from their own story and placing them in his artworks, Solomon has created a new life for them – one of color and composition. Since the comics that inspired this painted collage process are from what is now the comics archives, the characters take on a new life inside the Solomon landscape.
While spending time looking at “Funny Paper Revisited #3,” I noted the use of the comic characters as compositional pieces: such as the pair of feet wearing shiny black shoes and spats or the gloved hand holding a cane – all these items are rarely seen in today’s world, yet they become an important part of this composition. This painting also has influences of an abstracted musical score; the dark notes across the canvas are reminiscent of the West Coast influence of Robert Motherwell.
In “Funny Paper #77,” we see that Solomon has also incorporated influences of modern masters into his artworks including hints of Picasso, Leger, and Miro. The classic modern masters are contrasted with the comic characters positioned in each directional corner of the painting: Snuffy Smith shares the picture plane with one of the Charlie Brown boys and sees no issues with the MC Escher optical illusion wall incorporated into the scene. All of this is set on a grid that resembles the New York City gridiron plan, with riffs on the checkerboards set up in the parks to ball players and the subway.
“Funny Paper #76” feels rooted in 1945, from the comic characters placed in the work to the stylized typography within the painting. Solomon’s process of beginning with a red underpainting is clearly apparent here. Looking closely, can you tease out the grid lines in the lower quadrant of the painting that the artist has painted around that reveal the red? Thinking about the process that Solomon uses, I felt enormous respect for his painterly talents.
The Lockwood Gallery featured D. Jack Solomon’s “Likely Story” February 4 – March 7, 2021
747 Route 28, Kingston, NY 12401
845-663-2138 | info@TheLockwoodGallery.com
Photos used in this essay courtesy of The Lockwood Gallery. The artist, D. Jack Solomon reserves all rights.