Renowned muralist cuts staff to capture the cosmos | visual arts
Richard Haas is known for his illusionistic murals on buildings and walls in his hometown, Yonkers, as well as in Manhattan, Boston, Chicago, Washington, DC and Munich, Germany.
Starting last year, Haas made a series of drawings and paintings on a smaller scale, but not in terms of subject matter. The result, “Circles in Space”, is a series of 16 works exhibited at the Hudson River Museum until January 9, 2022.
“I have followed Richard’s work both personally and professionally for many years,” said museum curatorial chair Laura Vookles. “It’s a joy to see this departure. His murals reflect an architectural eye. These examine the geometry of artistic forms in the universe.
The colorful exhibit is in the Troster Gallery, outside the museum’s planetarium, which reopens on Friday, July 16. The exhibition also includes “Model for the proposed mural on the planetarium dome,” which Haas painted on steel in 1990.
Haas and his wife, Katherine Solnikoff, moved to Yonkers 41 years ago. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Hudson River Museum for 30 years.
The 84-year-old describes himself as “a painter, draftsman and engraver”. “Circles in Space” combines the first two, since he drew the series with colored pencils and then painted most of the works in acrylics.
Due to the pandemic, Haas was unable to visit his Manhattan studio for most of 2020. Being an artist who is still working on something, Haas started “Circles in Space” at home. The work ranges in size from 8.5 by 11 inches to 24 by 30 inches.
The series celebrates subjects that fascinate him, including the Hubble Telescope, which was launched in 1990 and which still returns photographs from space to Earth.
“I remember seeing the first photographs in the news,” Haas said. “The universe opened up to me and I realized that my tiny human mind couldn’t really contemplate its expanse and frightening beauty.”
The exhibit includes “Memory of the Hubble,” made with acrylic, colored pencils and graphite on paper, and Haas’ interpretation of galaxies, influenced by his childhood visits to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.
Additionally, Haas has produced paintings that pay homage to artists known for their chromatic experiments – Wassily Kandinsky (French, born Russia, 1866-1944), Sonia Delaunay (French, born Russia, 1885-1979), Robert Delaunay (French, 1885–1941), and Stanton MacDonald-Wright (American, 1890–1973).
Other paintings reflect Haas’ observations, seen from airplane windows, of the circular patterns of irrigation wells in the Midwest and Asia, allowing him to view the Earth “as an endless sea of circular patterns at a loss. of view. “
Haas was inspired by the circular geometry of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whom he worked for at the age of 19 in Spring Green, Wisconsin, where Haas grew up.
“We lived across the river from Wright’s studio. My great-uncle was Wright’s stonemason, ”Haas said. “When my uncle told Wright that I was interested in art, Wright said, ‘Alright, bring it on.’ So I was there on and off for about a year, ostensibly laying the stone. But, there, I had access to drawers containing all of his drawings, dating from the 1880s. It was a discovery on several levels.
Like Wright, Haas prefers to use colored pencils and has 300 to 400 shades.
Haas holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MA in Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota. Very early on, he made a living as a teacher while continuing to work as an artist. At the end of the 1960s, he arrived in New York where he befriended Paul Goldberger, who would become an architecture critic for the New York Times. Goldberger introduced Haas to Doris Freedman, who worked in the administration of Mayor John Lindsay. Subsequently, Haas was commissioned to paint murals in Soho and other locations in New York City.
Haas ‘work has received numerous accolades – the American Institute of Architects’ Medal of Honor (1977), the Guggenheim Fellowship (1983), the National Endowment of Arts Award (1987), the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Distinguished Alumnus Award (1991) and the Jimmy Ernst Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2005). He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1993 as an associate member and became a full academician in 1994. He was president of the Academy from 2009 to 2011.
In the late 1990s, Haas painted three murals on the history of Yonkers, dating back to its early days. Although marked, two were demolished, in 2016 and 2020. The only remaining sign is at the corner of Main Street and Riverdale Avenue.
When asked what he thought about the demolition of his murals as well as the buildings they were painted on, Haas replied, “As is the case with an architect, I don’t think of longevity. . This is to complete the project. And with the last few months in one place, I have had more time to focus on my little drawings and there have been many exciting moments to do.