Reviews, Artist Statements and a Resume



The Neuberger Collection
Americans of Today in Chicago
Howard Devree review of Neuberger Show
Arts Digest, May 15, 1955 (Laverne George)
Circa 1955 - source unknown
“New Talents” in Solo Exhibits
New York Times, February 22, 1964
Painter and Novelist Win Prizes
Letter Announcing the Award
Boston Evening Globe, Wednesday, February 7, 1973 - Robert Taylor
Robert D’Arista at the Circle
Art Appreciation
Reflections on Painting
Article for exhibition at William and Mary’s
Watkins Gallery, The American University
Resume
Statement by Robert D’Arista
Article on Robert D’Arista - ART USA NOW

The Neuberger Collection

There is a puzzling redundancy in exhibiting at this time the Neuberger Collection of some 100 paintings and sculptures, for it comprises a museum of 20th century American art on the third floor directly over the Whitney’s own collection on the second. Almost every important American artist of our time is included, whether it be pioneers like Dove, Stella, Weber, conservatives like Hurd, Karfiol, or the established avant-garde, as seen in Hofmann, Pollock, Smith. In other words, this is a duplicate survey of the modern American scene which only reiterates the points made on the floor below.

This is not to say, however, that there are not many fine specimens on view (consider Rattner’s April Showers, with its brilliant interplay of facial fragments, or the sturdy and imposing Fishermen’s Last Supper of Hartley), as well as a few lesser known items which offer a welcome relief to the all-too-familiar panorama of Marin, Hopper, Davis, Levine, et al. Of these, I would point to some of the younger masters displayed - to Robert d’Arista’s Sun Bathers, a dazzling tour de force in which two figures are consumed by the glowing orange and salmon surface; to Herbert Katzman’s Zinnias, a masterly wedding of jagged, animated petals to the nervous rhythms of its rich blue background; to William Kienbusch’s vigorous landscape, which, like the superb Vytlacil, encompasses and controls the torrential energies of nature; or to Seymour Drumlevich’s transformation of the iron and glass Naples Galleria into an intricate, fibrous network of scorching reds. But as for the rest, there is little, if any, news. (Whitney, to Dec. 19.) - R.R.

Arts Digest 12/1/54


Americans of Today in Chicago

By Aline B. Saarinen, Chicago. New York Times, October 31, 1954

… Glasco, sadness, solemnity, man trying to dominate his landscape; Golub, nightmare terror of our world; D’Arista, beauty and wonder of the commonplace, Carone, man and beast like lost, cave-creatures; Osver, organic forms of nature; MacIver, lovely, unnoticed, secret corners of vision; Lee Gatch, apotheosis into color harmonies.


Howard Devree review of Neuberger Show at the Whitney, New York Times, November 22, 1954.

Seldom has the wide range and vitality of contemporary American work been more clearly visible in an exhibition. Color, from the subtle subdued harmonies of Carl Knaths’ “Moby Dick” to the sultry, orange light of Robert D’Arista’s “Sunbathers” is everywhere of great importance and a sense of visual excitement animates most of the work.


Arts Digest, May 15, 1955 (Laverne George)

Robert D’Arista

His reputation having preceded him, the first one man show of this young artist’s work should arouse more than the usual interest in an especially promising new talent. The strength of his artistic personality is apparent even in the smallest works and in the comparatively less successful efforts like The Visitation. In all his painting there is an extraordinary and subtle response to color working toward the powerful and impressive wealth of texture in Stool and Table, one of his finest accomplishments to date.

The fact that D’Arista is already so well represented in museums and private collections could lead to the worry that he might become a victim of our tendency to leap at any emerging talent and blow it up, out of proportion, before it has had a chance to mature. But in D’Arista’s most recent painting there is evidence of struggle, of a self-prodding and standard of judgment which has nothing to do with acceptability. Only Freight Yard seems to have arrived on the canvas a completed thing without the painful encroachment of space which moves into his isolated plateaus of tables, leaving only its layers of textures, a few surviving objects. At his best, his prosaic flower pots and saucepans are charged with poetry through their alignment on a field of color - orange, pinks, or green - which bears the spirit and the flesh of the painting. The background, or better, the “atmosphere” arrives at a point of harmonious threat to the object where the two elements stabilize at a degree of tension which is a kind of peace.

Given the years and privacy a fresh talent needs for growth, there seems no reason why D’Arista should not develop into one of our most important painters. (Alan; to May 27.) - L.G.



New York Times (Stuart Preston), May 15, 1955

A first one-man exhibition of paintings by Robert D’Arista reveal him as an artist whose abstract figures and still-lifes express the union between sumptuous paint color and an active interest in the mystery of both animate and inanimate subject matter.

First the paint, which glows torridly in rosy reds and burning oranges, plastered on here, coagulating and writhing there. These surfaces are impressively worked up but D’Arista does not leave it at that. Paint is coaxed and teased into images which fall in and out of realism, recognizable enough in themselves and yet sufficiently unreal to hint broadly at other, troubled meanings. These are hardly defined but it is not remarkable that a young artist of such obvious painterly talents should excel in means while still faltering towards the ends to which to put them.


Circa 1955 - source unknown

Robert D’Arista is a shy twenty-five, looks surprisingly like the romantic young Modigliani, has been painting ever since he can remember, and is strenuously disinclined to discuss his work. Some clues to the character of his painting may be discerned in his immense respect for his former teachers, John Heliker and Philip Guston, and a feeling of artistic kinship with his gallery mate, Herbert Katzman. Of all the examples in this New York selection of new talent D’Arista’s most clearly reflect a French tradition of belle peinture.

In the short space of this last year the artist has made remarkable progress - from a diffuse, tasteful colorism - vaguely reminiscent of C.S. Price’s gentle aestheticism - to a concentrated, vigorous expression of great freshness and intensity. D’Arista’s forms now have the pointed, idiosyncratic individuality that is the mark of style, and not of formula. And there is an affecting poetic tension between his rather voluptuous matičre and hot color, and the awkward, inhibited presences that emerge from his surfaces - those blocky adumbrations of still-life objects or attenuated, spindle-shank human creatures.

D’Arista was born and educated in New York, attending Fordham Prep and after that the Art Students League and other art schools in the city. At Columbia University (1950-52) he worked with Heliker, and subsequently, he studied with Guston at New York University. Since the fall of 1952 he has been painting independently. Two figure compositions of that year with strange symbolic overtones may have been obliquely suggested by Guston’s early work. And that artist’s recent shift to contemplative, quietist abstraction may also have affected him. In this connection, it is interesting to note the highly abstract character of D’Arista’s water colors and drawings; they are all suggestion and grace, merely hinting at representation with a rapidity of notation and finesse characteristic of oriental art. In abstract painting, however, the artist surprisingly finds a constricting particularity: “… the abstractionist intensifies his symbols to direct them towards a particular connotation so that the color red, for instance, has a particular … meaning. I would prefer to leave the symbolism diffuse, not in order to cloud the meaning, but because I do not believe … that you can achieve sensuality with a circle.”

In the fall and spring of 1952-53 D’Arista took the Grand Tour, spending most of his time in France where he revived in situ his basic sympathies with School of Paris painting. Like that of many idealistic young Americans abroad, his Jamesian awe of Europe became tempered by a reawakened critical sense under the impact of direct experience - by the discovery that Paris, too, could produce mediocrities in contemporary painting. He returned home strengthened in his own artistic convictions. Soon after, in 1953, he painted The Chair, which was included in the Guggenheim Museum’s “Younger American Painters” last spring and which perhaps marked the first crystallization of his style. Over the past two years he has participated in group shows at the Dallas Museum of Art (1953), the Chicago Art Institute (1954), the University of Illinois (1955)

New York Herald Tribune, May 15, 1955, Emily Genauer

“New Talents” in Solo Exhibits

An American “new talent” missing from the Whitney’s “New Decade” show although last year he appeared in the Guggenheim Museum’s “Younger American Painters” is Robert D’Arista, having his first one-man exhibition at the Alan Gallery. Actually D’Arista, who has spent some time studying in Europe, is rather more in sympathy with what certain painters are doing over there (particularly in Italy) than with what has lately dominated the scene here. He paints still-lifes on tables, or detached, impersonal figures, with a texture and palette recalling the ancient frescoed walls of Italy. He mysteriously he keeps them fresh, intense and vital. His colors run to warm, earth tones; in his composition there is a kind of ordered remoteness. The combination is arresting and individual. Altogether D’Arista’s is an impressive debut. E.G.


New York Times, February 22, 1964

Robert D’Arista (Nordness Gallery, 831 Madison Avenue at 69th Street): A gentle exhibition concerned with subtle (and sincere) materializations of feeling through textures accreting slowly around subject matter that runs from fairly conventional portraits to four good studies of a camera.

There are also some small figure studies that are care-thought-out adaptions of impressionist and post-impressionist practice. A show that leaves one with a strange feeling of incompleteness, as if the objects had been only temporarily materialized.

New York Times, Wednesday, April 12, 1967

Painter and Novelist Win Prizes

Robert D’Arista, a painter, and Thomas Pynchon, a novelist, will receive the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Awards of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. The awards, created to promote the careers of young painters and writers, are prizes of $2,000 each.

Mr. D’Arista is 38 years old. He was born in New York, studied at New York University, Columbia and the Grande Chaumičre in Paris, and is now on the faculty of the American University in Washington. His work has been exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, Guggenheim Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, and Detroit Museum of Art.


Letter Announcing the Award

The National Institute of Arts and Letters
633 West 155th Street
New York, NY 10032
To ROBERT D’ARISTA, born in Pelham, New York, in 1929, a romantic humanist whose broad, impetuous brushwork captures the dramatic play of light and shade as if a twentieth century Rembrandt. Leon Edel Secretary May 24, 1967

Boston Evening Globe, Wednesday, February 7, 1973 - Robert Taylor


A first-rate exhibition

Reviewing The Whitney Museum’s current biennial, Hilton Kramer observed that a good many paintings affirm “an unshaken belief in the disinterested work of art.” The phrase could serve as a motto for the recent paintings of Robert D’Arista at the Boston University Art Gallery, 855 Commonwealth Avenue, through February 17.

D’Arista is an intimist. His semi-figurative canvases, small-scale, economical, speak a language of quiet lyricism. The paintings lack titles, dates, biographical data and ask to be taken on their own terms, but for the record, the 43-year-old D’Arista, Visiting Professor of Art at B.U. this year, has been teaching at Washington’s American University since 1961. He has exhibited widely, his work is in the collections of Yale and the Toledo Art Museum, and it is distinguished.

The painterly quality of the brushstroke ranges from scumbled freely-handled passages to webs of energetic multidirectional line. Figures frequently emerge from masses of darkness, accentuated here and there by heavier contours that pull the image into focus. D’Arista’s lyricism is dark; from a palette of earth colors, smoky umbers, smouldering reds and blacks, he creates lucidly-organized paintings sharing some of the dramatic chiaroscuro of The Ash Can School.

The Ash Can painters, however, were insurgent realists whose chief contribution lies in the kind of subject matter they made available to American art. In this sense, content is not significant to D’Arista. His canvases deal with the mingling of light and shadow in a bedroom, figures given a broad generalized characterization, the brusque planes of urban buildings. The mood, dusky and evocative, derives from the character of the painting, which contrasts textures of the finished and the unfinished, synthesizes form, charges diffused light with a brooding intensity that can make a drape blowing over a bed seem a sudden epiphany.

The exhibition is divided roughly between figure studies, interiors and landscapes. A wall presenting variations on the female nude finds the scintillating, vibratory quality of light on flesh enhanced by the deep tonal warmth of browns and reds. Occasional cropping is used and space is turned into ground by shadow or reflection: it is always the process of painting that matters as it has mattered since Cezanne.

I suppose that D’Arista’s style should be categorized as romantic because of its subjective atmosphere. It is simply first-rate painting. He is rather an anomaly since big paintings, color-fields, the new realism of a numb “objective” vision are in vogue.

The Washington Post, January 23, 1986 by Jo Ann Lewis


Robert D’Arista at the Circle

The Circle Gallery in Georgetown, also new, is showing small-scale oils, drawings, etchings and monotypes by American University professor Robert D’Arista, a painter’s painter who shuns the commercial art world and rarely exhibits. In this show, much of his art seems as private and elusive as he.

When D’Arista is good, he is very, very good, as in the angled interior view of his bedroom, in which he lingers lovingly over a blue-and-white-striped coverlet. It is a scene as vibrantly warm and intimate as a Vuillard, and similarly dappled with light. There are other agreeable painted still lifes and interiors here, but none has the visual or emotional clarity of this scene. Clarity, in fact, is something D’Arista doggedly refuses to give us often, perhaps because he equates it with the obvious.

But given the delicious nature of his painterly brush, of his fine hand at drawing and his tender perception, one can only wish that D’Arista would do the obvious more often, and simply relax and paint what he sees and feels.

It is possible, of course, that that’s what he’s doing, and that the lack of clarity is in the vision itself. More likely it is D’Arista’s apparent search for a DeKooning-like balance between figuration and Abstract Expressionism that bogs him down. If so, it is an idea that might be usefully scuttled and replaced with pure intuition.

There are some fine little etchings, including a self-portrait, in this show, which closes Jan. 31. But the drawings and monotypes, often murky in nature, continue to escape me. Perhaps one must be a painter to fully understand.

Circle Gallery is located in a courtyard at 3232 P St. NW, behind Aberdeen Bookshop, and is part of the non-profit Washington Studio School, where several colleagues from the American University art department give reasonably priced classes in traditional painting, drawing, monotype and etching techniques, along with seminars on framing. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will eventually show - though not exclusively - the work of its faculty members, among them Jack Boul, Carlton Fletcher, Lee Newman, David Holt, Joseph Kossow and Katy Murray.

Museum and Arts, Washington - Lee Fleming


Art Appreciation

The late Robert D’Arista acknowledged that “to paint without an identifiable image is possible,” but he firmly believed that creating with no reference to the visual past would deprive the artist of a necessary sense of continuity. The jewel-like retrospective of his paintings, sculpture, and works on paper on display at the Washington Studio School Gallery bears out his sense of artistic heritage. It also demonstrates how admiration for the past need not prevent an artist from developing a style that pays homage while speaking on a contemporary voice.

References to Chardin, Corot, and Daumier abound. D’Arista’s palette is predominantly rich and somber, his grouping of still-life objects simple, classical. The brushstrokes that finesse the edges separating mass from shadow with a faint, implied light are firm and swift.

Yet these are not recapitulations of the past. Their freshness is arresting. Their technical prowess is a reminder that beauty is still a valid objective in art.

D’Arista, who died in 1987 at age 58, was professor of art at American University for 24 years before joining the faculty at Boston University. His training at New York and Columbia universities during the art-world excitement of the 50s exposed him to such luminaries as Philip Guston, who would often adjourn his advanced painting class (D’Arista was the sole student) to the bar across the street. The young artist carried away a respect for art history and a great love for the possibilities inherent in his chosen medium.

In the ensuing decades, D’Arista quietly built a career. His paintings appeared in Carnegie Internationals and Whitney Annuals, as well as at the Bogotá Biennial, the Guggenheim and Brooklyn museums, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He received a Fulbright and a Guggenheim; his work is in the collections of the Hirshhorn, Neuberger, and Toledo museums, the National Museum of American Art, and the Yale Art Gallery.

Most of all, he persevered in his vision of art uncorrupted by the marketplace. The works in this show are intimately sized. The expressive strokes are modern, the subject matter is outside time. D’Arista’s abstract treatment of the long view down a narrow street could be drawn from today’s urban landscape - or the 19th century. The slashing, calligraphic quality of the lines used to delineate one painting of a nude show the same arresting combination of classic pose and late-contemporary treatment that manages to merge both into a happy balance.

D’Arista’s death deprived his students and patrons of new insights and work. But the paintings exhibited here provide eloquent proof that the vitality of the artist is ever present in his art.

From Painters on Painting by Eric Protter
Grosset & Dunlap - Universal Library 1971
ISBN-0-448-00156-X

Robert D’Arista (1929- ) He is now experimenting lyrically with traditions of Cezanne and Seurat and his new still lifes of fruit and flowers, as well as figurative studies, point to a new direction singing diminutively with a lightened heart. Roland F. Pease, Jr.

Reflections on Painting

There is, perhaps, in painting, more than in most art forms, an intrusion of public events and postures, seemingly only indirectly related or pertinent to the process of painting itself and, occasionally, quite at odds with it. Despite the latter-day insistence on the esthetics of the personal, the idiosyncratic, and the exclusive, the artist persists in institutionalizing himself, in running in schools, in creating amorphous public edifices with dogmas and hierarchies, in a more than passing concern for the artistic heresy. In the past, this behavior’s resultant uniformity of effort and attitude was rewarded with a commensurate product and achievement. But this dovetailed logically with the ethos of, for example (an especially pertinent one), French Impressionism, with its mainsprings in a new and scientifically orientated realism. One would presume that a representation of the real, under a stable theory of analysis, should perforce be anonymous, and that stylistic differences could almost be dismissed as residual effect.

If a theory of art insists on denying the validity of any real ethos, one is puzzled by the uniformity of results, the pattern of group effort, the meaning of heresy, and, not least of all, the interesting work produced. Differing perhaps in all other respects, the various contemporary movements seem to agree only on an allegiance to the expressive, the personal, and the unique effort - and proceed then to proliferate arbiters, exegetes, claques, cliques, and cabals that must be a source of wonder to the participants most of all. Seeming to obey every known law of the few attempting to manage the many, they proceed from virtuous evangelism to Bonapartist activism, aggrandizement, and so on. We speak of the end result as an academy, invidiously - hopefully, a school.

Being a painter, I do not deny at least a passive participation in this type of event and, perhaps, am quite ambivalent, as is, I believe, the case with most people. It is possible, moreover, that most of the art which has permanent value has emerged from such a process. Needless to say, the final corrupt stage is repugnant to everyone, but - with the telescoping of events which seems to characterize the era - this can be mercifully short. I would argue that in the contradiction between the theory and the event, the painter might well examine his ideas as to the validity of the values in his painting which are exclusive and personal, and seek to isolate some possibly more universal elements which may, after all, be truly operative. Further, one might examine the real implications of an artistic colloquy of any sort, with or without its attendant hazards.

From a statement by Robert D’Arista (1963)
Article for exhibition at William and Mary’s Andrews Gallery

Robert D’Arista

1929-1987

Robert D’Arista, well known and respected artist and teacher, died October 11, 1987, in Ashland, MA. This Memorial Exhibition of Paintings, Prints, and Sculpture organized by the American University’s Department of Art and on view at William and Mary’s Andrews Gallery includes a selection of his small-scale works executed from 1956 through 1987.

D’Arista, born in the Bronx of Italian parentage in 1929, became a “hot” young artist on the New York art scene by the mid-fifties. After studying at various art schools (at Columbia with John Heliker, at NYU with Philip Guston), he studied at the Academie Grand Chaumičre in Paris in the fall of 1952. He traveled through France and Italy (1952-53) strengthening his ties to the European traditions of painting and to his Italian heritage.

During the mid to late fifties he exhibited in many national group exhibitions surveying contemporary American painting - perhaps the most important being the 1954 “Younger American Painters” at the Guggenheim Museum. This led to his first solo exhibition in New York’s Alan Gallery the following year.

While maintaining his exhibition schedule in the U.S., he visited Italy twice during the next five years. He spent fall, 1955 - fall, 1956 in Florence on a Fulbright Scholarship. He then returned to Italy in 1960, this time to Naples for six months.

During the fifties he painted rather large-scale painterly landscapes, still-lifes, and figure compositions. The landscapes of this period reflect the influence of Heliker’s abstract painterly landscapes. His colorful “Sun Bathers” (1954) is now in the Neuberger Museum at SUNY, Purchase. The years 1954-56 produced a group of table top still-lifes whose block-like simplification of brush strokes call to mind deStael. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden owns a fine example of these, “Still-life with Italian Cheese”.

While on his Fulbright in Italy, he concentrated on painting the human figure, developing a thickly impastoed paint surface that reveals a close affiliation with his great friend and mentor, Philip Guston. “Figure Study, Italy, I” (Mr. and Mrs. John A. Steffian Collection) comes from this group of paintings. A comparison of this painting to the transparent watercolor “Face #2” (also from the Steffian Collection) demonstrates the Cezanne-like concentration of observation that went into these studies. The last works produced in New York were six-foot high figure compositions with black backgrounds. “Good Time Charlie” (Hirshhorn) typifies these paintings where figures gesticulate like Daumiers in impastoed light against the dark.

Returning from Italy in January, 1961, he moved to Washington, D.C. where a friend had arranged a job for him teaching adult education classes for D.C.’s Department of Recreation. Although he had never taught before, he fell in love with the profession. He started teaching full-time at The American University in the fall of 1962, joining a faculty already noted for the quality of its artists-teachers (William Calfee, Sarah Baker, Bob Gates, Ben Summerford, Helene Herzbrun). He taught at The American University serving several terms as Chair of its Department of Art until 1984 when he was appointed Professor at Boston University’s School of Visual Arts.

While living, teaching, and painting in Washington, D’Arista’s national success continued. He maintained his gallery connections in New York throughout the sixties. Gallery director Lee Nordness selected D’Arista’s handsome “Figure Between Curtains” (1961) for the touring Art USA Now exhibition (now in the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.). He was featured in a Time magazine article (July, 1962) entitled “102 Best Painters in U.S.A.” In 1967 the National Institute of Arts and Letters presented him with the Rosenthal Foundation Award for painting. (The same year Thomas Pynchon won for writing.) He exhibited for the last time in New York at Nordness in 1969.

As D’Arista became more and more disenchanted with the New York art scene’s hype over Pop, Op, Minimal Art, and other styles he considered faddish, he put more and more emphasis on his more personal, small-scale work. When he first moved to Washington he experimented with fragments and sketches of landscape themes (“Tree”, 1961) and still-life studies of his children’s toys. Perhaps reacting against the increasing scale of color field painting, perhaps also appreciating the smaller-scale works of the Phillips Collection as well as those of fellow Washington artists such as Jack Boul and Gerry Wartofsky, his commitment to working on a small scale grew progressively throughout the sixties.

While his range of subject matter (landscapes, figures, interiors, still-lifes) remained constant throughout the remainder of his career, in the seventies he expanded his media to include printmaking - first monoprints, etchings, and drypoints; then lithographs. After a serious illness in 1980, he started creating wax figure sculptures during convalescence.

Never wishing to return to the New York art scene nor to exhibit again with a commercial gallery, he consented only to exhibit in university or school galleries and in group shows with former students. His later solo exhibitions were presented at Boston University (1973), the American University (1976, 1980, 1982), and Circle Gallery, now known as Washington Studio School Gallery (1986, 1987).


Robert D’Arista

A Memorial Exhibition of Paintings, Prints, and Sculpture (1956-1987)
September 24-October 14, 1988
Watkins Gallery, The American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW
(202) 885-1670
“What is hard to get across is that persuasive realism is not just an accumulation of detail.

“A jump in thinking is necessary. There are limits to the uses of realism in art. One must be persuasive, not careless; one must exhaust probing for the veristic in art, but painting does not get better as it gets more and more value [gradations] or more and more space. You need a jump for the mind and heart of the viewer to take. Lay down a foundation and let the viewer make the jump. The jump has to be laid firmly on a foundation of something that is true.”
Robert D’Arista spoke these words to a painting class at American University. Anna Otchin faithfully recorded them in her class notes. They provide a key to his approach to his own work. He insisted upon a meditative analysis of observation as the foundation for painting. Against a Cezanne-like intensity of observation he played the ambiguities of gestural painting that he learned from New York’s Abstract Expressionism. (Philip Guston was his great mentor and friend.)

When we look at one of his untitled figure paintings, we can feel the exactness of the model’s weight distribution and her turn in space, but the details of the environment and the identity of the individual model eludes us. Instead, we must contemplate the pure painting - the handling of the paint itself, the stuff that moves over the surface changing speed, direction, tone, color, thickness, etc. We feel the eye, mind, and hand of a master artist discovering and weighing one touch of paint against another. The phrase “painter’s painter” comes to mind.

D’Arista painted landscapes, still-lifes, figures, and interiors. Although he took a traditionally intimist approach to unassuming, everyday subject matter, we confront in his work an archetypal presence of sorts - a presence which touches upon profound mystery.

He could create such a presence when painting an A-1 bottle as well as when depicting the human figure. He may not have painted the Universal Product Code on the label (in fact, he did not paint the label at all), but he somehow captured so much of the essential truth of the specific bottle that no one looking at his “Still-life: A-1 Bottle” can fail to recognize it. We make the “jump” of recognition. We acknowledge not the mass-produced and mass-trashed Warholian label but rather the commonality of human life as we know it. We experience D’Arista’s A-1 bottle and share a Proustian re-creation of its weight in our hand; we can almost smell and taste the steak sauce it once held.

Robert D’Arista died in October, 1987 in Ashland, Massachusetts. He had left Washington after painting and teaching here for 24 years to teach at Boston University. This memorial exhibition of small-scale works also includes prints (monotypes and etchings) and painterly wax sculptures.

Contributed by Ron Haynie, painter


Robert D’Arista - Personnel File, American University, 1980s

Born:			
			New York City

Education:	
			N.Y.U., Washington Square College, New York City
			Columbia University, New York
			Academie Grand Chaumičre, Paris

Professional:		
			University of North Carolina, Greensboro
			Instructor, The American University, 1961
			Assistant Professor, The American University, 1965
			Associate Professor, The American University, 1969
			Professor, The American University, 1972 to present
			Chairman, Department of Art, The American University, 
					1968-1970, 1975-1977,1980-1982
			Tanglewood School of Art, 1970-71
			Boston University, 1973
			Vice-Chairman, The American University Senate, 1975-76	

Committees:		
			Educational Policy Committee
			Graduate Studies
			University Executive Committee
			Center for Liberal Studies
			College of Public Affairs

Special courses:	
			Honors Colloquium on Policy, 1970
			Italian Culture, American University in Rome, 1979

Exhibitions:

One-man shows:	
			Alan Gallery, N.Y., 1955, 1956, 1960
			Grippi Gallery, 1962
			Collector’s Gallery, 1962
			Jefferson Place Gallery, Washington, D.C.
			Nordness Gallery, N.Y., 1964, 1968, 1969, 1972
			Watkins Gallery, The American University, 1976, 1980
			Boston University Gallery, 1972

Group shows:		
			Pennsylvania Academy of Art
			Guggenheim
			Whitney Museum
			Carnegie Institute
			Detroit Museum of Art
			Chicago Art Institute
			Corcoran Gallery of Art
			Bogota Biennial
			University of Nebraska
			University of Indiana

Collections:		
	`		Yale University
			Toledo Museum
			Hirshhorn Museum
			Neuberger
			National Collection of Fine Arts
			Watkins Collection
			Boston University
			Private collections

Awards:		
			Fulbright Scholarship: Italy 1955
			Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Awards 
			of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1967

Publications/Mentions:
			“Art in America”, 1955
			“Life”, November 21, 1955
			“Time”, July, 1962
			“Fortune”, 1962
			“Art USA Now”, Viking Press
			“Who’s Who in American Art”, 1962
			“Who’s Who in South, Southwest”, 1962
			“Who’s Who in USA”, 1964
			“Painters on Painting”, 1963, Viking Press

1.	THE CHAIR: oil: 1953. This early painting of the artist is undoubtedly 
under the influence of the School of Paris, and the artist did
study for some time at the Academie Grande Chaumičre in Paris. 2. FIGURE STUDY, Italy VIII: oil: 1955. In the mid-fifties the artist turned
to the figure, and began his evolution of using paint in a more expressive
manner. The use of heavy impasto allowed a much more emotional content. 3. FIGURE STUDY: oil, 1956. A Fulbright grant in Italy provided the artist with
the leisure to develop further his impasto technique in depicting the loneliness and
frustrations of contemporary man. This painting shows a much more disciplined control
of his statement over the figure study of 1955.

RDA - Statement by Robert D’Arista, ART USA NOW, Viking Press, 1962

Some of my views on painting are the following:
1. A painting’s organization must be intrinsically geometric - that is to say, its organization must be inherent in its execution. Where realistic painting is concerned, no element can be suppressed in the interest of an imposed organization. This is the heart of the cubist misinterpretation of the Cezanne analysis, culminating as it does logically in the hopelessly designed painting, i.e., Mondrian. The only tenable organization in the representation of a random universe, as I see it, must be kaleidoscopic - which is to say, at once repetitive and in flux.

2. To paint without an identifiable image is possible, perhaps desirable, being the argument for compression and efficiency. However, to attempt to work with no reference to the visual past would appear to deprive the artist of any continuation whatever. It seems to me that to introduce elements which refer to no previous visual events and then to impose a geometric organization (which has such references), even by implication, is to contaminate the paintings with a dualism which is apparent to the most casual viewing. The resulting painting has neither more nor less interest than the pseudo-designed realism. It is my opinion that all efforts in this direction bear the burden of an artistic Manichean error as seductive and hazardous as the theological one.


Article on Robert D’Arista - ART USA NOW, Viking Press, 1962

Robert D’Arista was selected by the Guggenheim Museum to enter his work in the “Younger American Painters” exhibition when he was only twenty-four years old. He was given a one-man show in New York a year later: the young artist’s supply of pictures was so small that all but four of the paintings had to be borrowed from private collectors.

D’Arista is of Italian descent and in this first exhibition it was evident that he was in sympathy with contemporary Italian artists. In the following eight years his work has changed considerably. His most recent pictures, shown in May 1962, are small oils that return to color and form. He is now experimenting lyrically with traditions of Cezanne and Seurat and his new still lifes of fruit and flowers, as well as figurative studies, point to a new direction, singing diminutively with a lightened heart.

D’Arista was born in 1929 in Pelham, New York. His brothers and sisters were equally interested in art and in this family milieu of cultural fermentation he began to paint earlier than he can remember. He attended the Art Students’ League, the American Art School at New York University, the Columbia University School of Painting and Sculpture and the Academie Grande Chaumičre in France. Influential in his art education were such artists as David Fedenthal and Gorden Sanstag. Two of his teachers were the artists John Heliker and Philip Guston and their contributions to his development can be weighed in aspects of D’Arista’s early efforts. A close friendship was formed with the painter Herbert Katzman and this connection is observable to the knowing eye in certain experimental canvases.

In 1952 and 1953 a traditional grand tour of Europe broadened the artist’s vision, particularly the time spent in Paris where he discovered an early sympathy with the School of Paris. An oil, “The Chair,” exemplifies this period.

1955 was a high point in the young artist’s career. Not only was he introduced to New York in his solo show but he exhibited at the Carnegie International (and again in 1958) and was featured in “Art in America” and “Life” magazine. A painting of 1955, “Figure Study, Italy VIII”, illustrates his heightened interest in the image; a more expressive use of paint was apparent as was the application of heavy impasto to convey a growing momentum of emotional force.

In 1956 he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and went to Italy. (This same year he was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Annual, and again in 1957 and 1959.) Living in Florence, he individualized a bold impasto technique and deepened his artistic conviction in evolving a personal statement on man’s isolated and alienated dilemma.

Returning to America he was ready to show new work (in 1957 and 1959 one-man exhibitions) and there seemed to be a lessening abstract treatment of subject. He became interested in a kind of pointillism that established a rhythm of cyclical waves. He presented a group of pale watercolors that were markedly delicate. “Figure in Front of Curtain”, 1959) revealed D’Arista’s turning from his heavy impasto technique to a richer and seemingly more fluid surface. The mood had been approaching grotesquerie and violence; the tones were sombre and dense in a continued grappling with modern man’s predicament. Today he is transforming this dark vision as if backing out of despair’s one-way tunnel.

D’Arista, who now lives in Washington, D.C. where he teaches at the American University, has exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute Annuals, University of Illinois Biennial, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and his work is in many permanent American collections.

Of his 1960 exhibition, Art News (May, 1960) wrote that D’Arista “spotlights the head or the hands of musicians and other performers in otherwise black pictures. The garish, juicily-painted details are like baubles imbedded in tar. These works were dramatic … D’Arista implies a satirical social commentary but avoids its implications by placing the figures in night club and theatre settings, the “natural” environment. In recent canvases, the palette is lightened; these (recent) pictures range from a lyric but unnerving “Figure in Interior, 2” to a New-Images-of-Man head.” And Arts said of the same exhibition that the paintings dominated the monotypes and drawings “not only because of their size but also because they are so extreme in intent. They are great expanses of tarry black set off, with startling contrast, by portrait figures. The faces and hands are all but modeled in the round, the impasto is so thick. The ivory and tan hues provide the contrast: the darker colors of the clothing tend to vanish into the black of the background. There is a certain nervous vitality and sumptuousness in this work.” But it was Emily Genauer in the New York Herald Tribune who noticed the promise of more dulcet colors and gentler forms. She terms D’Arista an “artist who has not been content to continue working on lines that have won critical and public approbation in the past.” And she rightly predicted that the 1960 paintings “suggest that a still newer direction may be developing.”

Roland F. Pease, Jr. .

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