Click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Simon Gaon

Times Square, New York City, Simon Gaon
In the city of New York today, there are thousands upon thousands of artists (that is, painters, sculptors, singers, dancers, songwriters, actors, comedians, musicians, etc.). Not one in a thousand of them will ever make a living from their art. They are kept alive by a steady diet of professional training, menial service jobs, self-esteem, talent, and most of all hope. For their efforts, they are getting older, wiser, thinner, angrier, more cynical, more desperate, more lost in their gradual realization that they are not what they thought they were five, ten, even twenty years ago. They are not losers. They have hung onto a dream, but neither are they winners. I'm reminded of the words of the old Drifters song from around 1963--On Broadway. Sing along if you like (bottom.)
      "They say the neon lights are bright
       On Broadway.
       They say there's always magic in the air.
       But when you're walkin' down that street,
       And you ain't had enough to eat,
       The glitter rubs right off and you're nowhere.

       They say the women treat you fine
       On Broadway.
       But lookin' at them just gives me the blues.
       How ya gonna make some time,
       When all you got is one thin dime,
       And one thin dime won't even shine your shoes.

       They say that I won't last too long
       On Broadway.
       I'll catch a Greyhound bus for home they all say.
       But they're all wrong, I know they are,
       'Cause I can play this here guitar.
       I won't quit till I'm a star
       On Broadway."

                                     --Mike Stollar, Jerry Leiber, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil

One who didn't take the Greyhound bus for home,
but vividly recalls the urge to do so.
Simon Gaon was one of the above. Born in 1943, he came to New York City in 1962, fresh out of high school from Stamford, Connecticut. He had talent. He'd won a scholarship to the Art Students League, which not only allowed him to study in New York but also in Haarlem--not Harlem in New York, but the Haarlem in the Netherlands. A second scholarship allowed Gaon to stay more than ten years in Paris, where his style evolved. The works of the Fauve painters--Derain, Vlaminck as Soutine, Kokoschka, Corinth, and especially Van Gogh all had a strong influence.

Thanksgiving Day Parade, Simon Gaon
Simon Gaon remembers what New York was like in 1962. So do I. I was there the following year. I was there sheltered by chaperones and my high school classmates on our "senior trip." I was there for maybe two or three days. Yet, even then, fifty-five years ago, the streets of the city were overwhelming. Simon Gaon vividly recalls the feeling of being a struggling art student with dreams he didn't dare let slip from his grip. Today, as one of the founders, and executive director of the American Arts and Crafts Alliance he recalls the past thirty-four years participating, in and guiding the "Crafts on Columbus" (Avenue, that is) show aimed at helping young artists and artisans achieve their dreams of success in the biggest, most brutal, most competitive art market in the world. The problem is, today, "Crafts on Columbus" is no more. Three years ago, New York City politics, being what it is, the city withdrew the group's permit.

The hustle and bustle of Manhattan as seen by the man claiming to be "the last of the classic expressionist."
In New York, and above all, on the island of Manhattan, Simon Gaon tells of the lively bustle on the streets. Nestled in the crowd in Times Square, Gaon emphasizes his love for humanity, as expresses in oils the crowds and chaos--their densely interwoven lives and stories. Tireless and energetic, Simon paints the city smog as well as the vibrant lights, from the banks of the canals, bridges: the subjective faces of passersby. Portraits become inflamed as each figure is unique with its own thick mixtures of pigments, brought to the canvas with a brush, spatulas and fingers--instinctive gestures without hesitation. Every corner of the earth, every face, every semblance, both humans and animals, has for him the same expressionistic lift. Every living form, in the drama of life, stands as worthy of artistic creation.

Night Seascape, 1992, Simon Gaon
Simon Gaon’s canvases are large in scale and swirling with color. He paints the sea too, water, roiled by storms (above) or glinting with reflected light, is a frequent theme. Gaon's Manhattan’s rivers and bridges (below), hang next to sunlight dappling the bay at Shelter Island (at the far eastern end of Long Island), where he spends much of his time. For this artist, paint is a highly tactile medium, verging on three dimensions with juicy, palpable brush strokes. Gaon is also a sculptor, and several of his stone figures are on view alongside the canvases. When not at Shelter Island, Geon lives and paints on New York's Upper West Side, overlooking the Hudson. His work has been exhibited at galleries all over New York City, Sag Harbor, as well as in Europe where he is especially popular in Germany and Holland.

Simon Gaon's bridges to success.


No comments:

Post a Comment