Whitehot Magazine

Robert Standish: New Works on Canvas



Martin Lawrence Galleries
457 West Broadway
New York, NY 10012
Exhibition: May 12 – June 11, 2023

Martin Lawrence Galleries
366 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Opening June 3rd


“You know, comments about style always seem strange to me – 'why do you work in this style or in that style' – as if you had a choice in the matter. What you're doing is trying to stay alive and continue and not die.”

– Philip Guston


“Today, painters do not have to go to a subject matter outside of themselves. Most modern painters work from a different source. They work from within.”

– Jackson Pollock

From Gerhard Richter to Jackson Pollock, there’s a long line of notable this-and-last-century artists who have leapt dramatically from the creation of fully figurative to utterly abstract works during the course of their studio practice and career path. Some painters, like the frequently controversial Philip Guston, even returned to the figure after such a focus flip. Each approach, of course, appeals to the distinct needs each artist develops and requires as time marches forward and personal revelations emerge.

Robert Standish, known for his photorealistic film star portraits and even some mysterious, masterful landscape paintings, has made such a switch with the creation of his ongoing abstract Rhythmic series now on view in the upcoming solo exhibitions Robert Standish: New Works on Canvas at two Martin Lawrence Galleries locations in New York City and San Francisco.

“Crimson Kismet,” Acrylic on panel, 36” diameter, 2023

Many works in the show, such as the circular, acrylic-on-panel Crimson Kismet, offer rich, rolling, textural reveals that show viewers the numerous color-saturated paint layers Standish has laid down before unearthing each into repeated palette-knived patterns that flower and fold above and beneath the ground. It is an “overall” work among others that, in the words of Jackson Pollock, “…do not have a center, but depend on the same amount of interest throughout.”

Other pieces in the two shows act somewhat differently. Migration, for example, painted on a traditional, vertically dominant, rectilinear canvas, provides a collection of more discrete, star-bursting images that flock and rock across a rich cobalt blue background. We could call them figures, but they’re not sitting for a session. Quite the contrary. There are often just enough of them to create a patterned relationship that lives beyond the confines of the format and live up to the avian mobility and action alluded to in the title.

 “Migration (Cobalt Blue), Acrylic on canvas 36” x 24”, 2022

One work in the New York show, Trails, ironically caught my eye because it initially seemed so incidental. In this piece, Standish loaded the canvas with layered primary and secondary colored paint, then sort of iced them over with a series of rippling, desaturated swaths of greys, aqua greens and dirty whites. It’s easy to assume his practice is to work back in and around the psychedelic patterned paths our eyes pounce on in the final piece, but you realize quickly that the artist is making a date with the infinite, offering no beginning and no end in sight, even with straight-edged media borders and square corners. His process is as important to the pieces as any supposed puzzles that form for us in the works.

 Trails, 60 x 48 inches, Acrylic in canvas, 2022

The paintings remind me a bit of Jen Starks jaw-dropping, zig-zaggy, really-rainbowy murals, sculptures and installations, as well as the lovely, ‘lectric, layered, gouge paintings of David Allan Peters, but Standish clearly has a foot in the great epochs of American and European abstraction. Luckily, he has, in small degrees, made the work anew for the twenty-first century.

After laboring over the “ego-driven” realist paintings for years, Standish says his subsequent work is about that which is, instead, “energetically uplifting, spontaneous and transcendent.” It’s interesting to note that there are many abstract images – scattered automotive tail light patterns and murky, moorish landscape growth – that abound in Standish’s previous paintings with obvious “subjects.” His more abstract works of the last dozen years, on the other hand, do sometimes include some grouped “figures” and energized, localized objects that we can almost but not quite make out. That’s because, I believe, Standish wants us to connect through what we know – allusive forms, bright active colors and fundamental shapes – and also throw all of that away, as we ascend from the ephemeral into his evidence of eternal “Divine guidance” in each piece. WM

To see the new Robert Standish: New Works on Canvas solo exhibitions, go to the Martin Lawrence Galleries on 457 West Broadway in New York, NY at the opening reception on May 12, 2023 from 6 – 8 p.m. and the 366 Geary Street gallery location in San Francisco, CA at the opening reception on June 3, 2023 from 2 – 4 p.m.



Stephen Wozniak

Stephen Wozniak is a visual artist, writer, and actor based in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited in the Bradbury Art Museum, Cameron Art Museum, Leo Castelli Gallery, and Lincoln Center. He has performed principal roles on Star Trek: EnterpriseNCIS: Los Angeles, and the double Emmy Award-nominated Time Machine: Beyond the Da Vinci Code. He co-hosted the performing arts series Center Stage on KXLU radio in Los Angeles and guest hosts Art World: The Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art podcast in New York City. He earned a B.F.A. from Maryland Institute College of Art and attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. To learn more, go to: www.stephenwozniakart.com and www.stephenwozniak.com. Follow Stephen on Instagram at @stephenwozniakart and @thestephenwozniak.

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