Carl E. Hazlewood “Demerara Dreaming: Triptych Paintings: 1997 – 2003”

David Richard Gallery

Feb. 17, 2024 - Mar. 25, 2022

508 West 26th Street, Suite 9E
New York, 10001
PHONE 212 882-1705

David Richard Gallery is pleased to present a series of abstract color paintings by Brooklyn-based artist Carl E. Hazlewood (born 1951, Guyana, South America) that have never been presented as a group until now. The paintings began initially by staining, then built up with layers of color, medium, and additions of metallic, fluorescent and mirrored materials that brought complexity, depth and texture. This exhibition, Demerara Dreaming: Triptych Paintings: 1996 – 2003, also debuts the Gallery’s opening of a new space in Chelsea, its second location in New York.

The Hazlewood presentation includes fourteen narrow horizontal paintings, each a triptych measuring from 10 x 37 to mostly 10 x 44 and 10 x 46 inches, up to one very long painting at 10 x 66 inches. The three canvases comprising each triptych are stretched on separate stretcher bars with a larger horizontal canvas in the center flanked by two smaller vertical rectangular canvases on either side. The canvases themselves are the salvaged edges and discarded portions from earlier and much larger canvases by Hazlewood that he painted as early as the 1980s and cut them down to the desired shape and dimensions at the time of their creation. Years later, from 1996 to 2003, these remnants became the source material for a series of roughly 25 small horizontal paintings, of which only these 14 remain and are presented now for the first time as a group. The other eleven paintings were gifted to various individuals and institutions.

The decision to create the triptych paintings as assemblages from existing canvases was the result of several constraints around: time, space, and the sizes of available salvaged canvas to use. Hazlewood spent a great deal of time with Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art that he co-founded and managed in service to artists and the local community from 1984 to 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. Thus, he had limited time, so the use and appropriation of his own artwork and existing materials on a smaller, manageable scale was something he found doable and rewarding.

The resulting triptychs became inventive and very creative with strong juxtapositions of colors and contrasting values given the size constraints and decision to not overpaint nor make any painting additions or adjustments to any of the canvases. Thus, the triptychs organically evolved, which allowed him to create balanced and harmonic compositions with the existing fragments and three positions in each composition. To some extent, he now admits, there may be some narrative at play in certain works. However, he mostly thinks of the triptychs as poetry with each of the three components as a stanza. Sometime after creating these works, Hazlewood stated, “As a ‘re-emergent’ no-longer-young ‘black artist’, [he] resumed focus on his personal art about ten years ago after a long career performing a social practice serving other artists.”

Hazlewood paints from memory, capturing on canvas the “sensory impact of color and light at different times of day.” The imagery in the triptychs evokes atmospheric landscapes, the cosmos and abyss beyond. They are derived from and thus, part of a large body of work that the artist refers to as the Demerara series, begun in the 1970s and continued through the 1980s. Demerara refers to a river and county in Guyana where Hazlewood was born. The imagery is no coincidence as early in his career the artist was inspired and influenced by landscape paintings and in particular the Hudson River school and tonal painting. He is also a fan of science fiction so space and astral perspectives evolve naturally.

The triptychs embrace color and Color Field painting with some twists—incorporating stain painting using Rhoplex (an acrylic emulsion) as the medium and mixing it “with powdered pigments, silver powder and gold essence” as well as Dayglo fluorescent colors. Each of the additions gave a reflective or contrasting quality to an otherwise matte surface as well as explosions of color. The Rhoplex medium (often thickened and volumized with additions) was also dripped and splattered on the surface to create raised and textured areas that became important components of the final imagery. Impasto swaths of pigment were also applied across the canvas surface.

In an interview with Judith Landsman Slishman, for the catalogue, The Curator As Artist/The Artist As Curator (the exhibition Included: Robert Storr, Alejandro Anreus, Peggy Cyphers, Carl E. Hazlewood, et. al. The Bergen Museum, Bergen, NJ – 1995-96), Hazlewood said,” Without sounding overly dramatic or romantic, my paintings had been, at least in the conventions of naming, an acknowledgment of the persistence of cultural and personal memory encoded in the way I see color, that is, landscape color, skin color, pure prismatic color.” Further, he added, “[. . .] in my own work right now, I’m more interested in paring down complexities to essential practical ideas; particularly those basic ones that concern the visual and establishing an assertive abstract image.

Color is at the core of Hazlewood’s abstractions and artmaking practice. Color selections are personal as the artworks convey his interpretations of color based on certain places and objects as well as the interplay with the sunlight at various times of day and evening. In a recent interview with Marina Gluckman, Executive Director, Art Cake, Brooklyn, NY in 2021, Hazlewood stated: “I reach for certain colors and color-relationships as a result of who I am and my personal history going back to my Guyana childhood.”

Hazlewood’s artwork is abstract, not figurative nor narrative. His focus is on formal concerns, especially color, as noted above and compositions that explore neutralized grounds that echo the brown soils and grey clays of Guyana with strongly contrasting, bold and vibrant colors in the foreground reminiscent of the colorful flowers and bright leaves in gardens and landscapes. He further stated in that same interview with Marina Gluckman, “[. . .] recently, because of my social experience as a black person in America, my color is often somewhat intentional, if not symbolic. [. . .] While I appreciate various subjective and conceptual approaches, including the social, or explorations of identity, my own tendency is toward an aware universality, something that could embody the complications of the present while speaking to the timelessness of art and objects.”

About Carl E. Hazlewood:

Visual artist Carl E. Hazlewood, born in Guyana, received his BFA with honors, from Pratt, and an MA from Hunter College, CUNY. An elected member of AAA (American Abstract Artists, founded 1936), he’s also a curator and writer. He co-founded Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art (1983-2018) in Newark, NJ. Recent honors include Fellowships and residencies from The Brown Foundation Fellows Program at the Dora Maar House, (administered by MFAH-The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), Ménerbes, France, Summer & Winter 2018, The Bogliasco Foundation (Fellow) Liguria Study Center for the Arts & Humanities, Village of Bogliasco, Italy, Fall 2018; NARS Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Headlands Center for the Arts, Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center, and the MacDowell Colony, among many others. A 2017 ‘Tree of Life’ award grantee, his fifty-two feet painting installation, ‘TRAVELER’, was commissioned by the Knockdown Center, Maspeth, Queens, in 2017. Hazlewood’s work has been seen in the EA/B, NADA, PRIZM, Volta, and Scope Art Fairs. BOMB Magazine, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the NY Times, are among publications that have written about the artist.

Also a curator and writer, Hazlewood co-curated ‘Aljira at 30 – Dreams and Reality’, for the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton (2014). He’s lectured in Art History at New Jersey City University, and was visiting artist/critic at various institutions, most recently, Ithaca College (2021), and Pratt Institute (2019). Currently associate editor for Okwui Enwezor’s, ‘Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art’, (Duke University), and ‘The Arts Journal: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Literature, History, Art and Culture of Guyana and the Caribbean’, Georgetown, Guyana. His writing has appeared in many other periodicals, including Hyperallergic, ’Flash Art International’, Rome; ‘ART PAPERS Magazine’, Atlanta, and ‘NY Arts Magazine’. Recent contributions of essays to catalogues and books include, the Samuel Dorsky Museum book/catalogue, “Andrew Lyght – FULL CIRCLE” (2016), and‘Terry Adkins: RECITAL’, Tang Museum, Skidmore University (2017), Saratoga, NY.

Hazlewood worked as project consultant, curator, and/or writer for many organizations. Lately was curatorial adviser for BRIC’s project: ‘The BRIC Biennial, Volume Two’, Brooklyn, NY, Fall 2016. ‘Modern Life’ for Aljira, (in association with the Newark Museum and co-curated with Okwui Enwezor), is among the numerous projects he organized for Aljira over the years. Hazlewood’s prize-winning project, ‘Current Identities, Recent Painting in the United States,’ represented the USA (Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions) at the ‘Cuenca Bienal International de Pintura,’ Ecuador 1994. It traveled for three years to eleven other countries & museums in Latin America. As Independent curator he organized ‘Contemporary Filipino Photography’ with David Medalla (UK), for the Philippines Consulate, NYC. A brief listing of other curatorial projects include those for The Nathan Cummings Foundation, NY; Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Hallwalls, NY; Artists Space, NY; P.S.122, NY, among many other venues. He’s written catalogues for The Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois; The Cress Gallery of Art, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; The Ben Shahn Center, William Paterson University, NJ; The New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ, and others.

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