Elijah's Mantle | Acrylic on Museum Board, Mounted on Wood | 65 inches
Intuitive Geometries: Del Rey Loven
By Douglas Max Utter
Del Rey Lovens shaped paintings allude to transcendent function and movement through subtle, suspenseful alignments of shape and color. Often they seem perched at the verge of miraculous action, of revelation. Its as if realitys lost dimensions, tucked in the creases of physical law since the Big Bang, are blooming just behind Lovens puzzle-like, interlocking, supple surfaces.
Visiting his studio one witnesses painting mediums spread roughly or smoothly over compressed layers of paper or panel, as secrets press outward or recede, rhythmically from top to bottom and side to side like waves in a geometric sea. At times his collaged objects are deliberately coarse, like the seven-by-eight foot Trans-Neptunian Object, slammed together as if from the rock and inner fire of broken planets, hurtling through aesthetic space. But in every work Loven pushes and releases form and color, line and texture, suspiring in deep rhythm. The three ellipses that constitute Epiphany I, II, and III each have four points around their perimeters, like vestigial corners. A closer look reveals that these are the tips of overlapping arcs, clues to a tightly composed inner structure. They serve to catch and hold the elliptical form, stopping its endless rotation as they snag in the surrounding space, like claws or thorns.
Another aspect of Lovens art is seen in a pair of modified rectangles titled JFK Elegy and RFK Elegy. An imposing eight feet tall and four-and-a-half feet wide each, theyre scooped out at a couple of corners in short, graceful curves as if by a lathe. Modernist yet also archaeological in tone, they shimmer like black marble in subtly varying hues on dark backgrounds of phthalo blue or green, applied as a field of round marks - the size of fingerprints or bullet holes, or the first drops of a hard rain. These works are Lovens elegies for John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, and it helps to know this, as their complex surfaces shimmer in the available light and begin to take on a sculptural presence, like colossal abstract portrait busts.
Del Rey Loven proposes forms that could represent Platonic ideas, objects that exist beyond the far edge of human concepts of function, containing within themselves the features of eternity. Independent and sovereign phenomena, theyre bred by the magic of juxtaposition and alignment from the planes and shades of essential, painted geometric forms. Since the late 1970s Lovens several abstract series have touched on many of the dominant modes of late Modernism. At times akin to the powerful formal simplicity of Ellsworth Kelly, or at another extreme (as in Lovens Asteroid series) like the haptic, layered and painted constructions of Frank Stella, Lovens objects carry a sense of formal inevitability that is entirely their own. He has pointed to Georges Braque, and particularly to that seminal Modernists more purely cubist work, as an indispensable source and model. All of Lovens work deals with the shifting unities of layered geometric forms. He fits his sectional shapes tightly together, then continues to tweak the poetics of their interrelation.
In the case of the three Epiphany paintings this is particularly clear, because of the way they seem to breathe and move. Their animated appearance evokes a range of associations, from intuitions of subcutaneous musculature to the shifting of tectonic plates. At bottom these objects are examples showing how the universe is driven by powerful, subtle inner forces and interactions - and by that sheer greatness of scale and spirit which has been called the Sublime.
Del Rey Lovens paintings belong to the heroic project which has defined much of modern art since its origins, to evoke and connect with the Sublime, written large and with a capital S. Loven shares the concerns of many seminal American abstract painters Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still to name a few in that the sheer grandeur of the human spirit and of natural beauty are among his subjects. But a work such as Lovens Elijahs Mantle reaches even farther, back through the darkness and mystery of history to the origins of spiritual power.
Elijahs Mantle is similar to Lovens Epiphany ellipses, except that its a bit larger and is designed in the form of a tondo; perfectly round, its sixty-five inches in diameter, a gestural distance as the abstract expressionists described this size range, comparable to the measure between the fingertips at the end of outstretched arms; it derives from the personal, physical core of spiritual experience, reaching to meet, to match the divine. In the Hebrew Bible the prophet Elijah wraps his mantle (his cloak, perhaps a poncho-like garment) around his head when he is in communion with God, or folds it to strike the waters so that they part for him, as for Moses. When he is taken up to heaven the mantle with its powers passes on to his successor, Elisha. Lovens Mantle is painted in close values of deep red, like hearts blood, and made up of interlocking forms, again reminiscent of cubist compositions especially in its implication that beauty and truth derive from the interaction of shapes, perimeters, and the heavier beating of visual volumes. The painting presents a vision of parts just at the moment they solve their separateness, as though the world was a lock, and the dance of line and hue was the key. Lovens vision of the Sublime is one in which the complexity of sensual experience becomes a map of the streets of the city of God.
About the Artist
Del Rey Loven was born in Thief River Falls, Minnesota and grew up in Minneapolis where he graduated from Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a BFA in Painting and Drawing. There he came under the influence of international artists, Fred Thieler (Germany), Kenneth Dingwall (Scotland), Juhana Blomstedt (Finland/France) and Siah Armajani (Iran/USA). He earned the MFA degree in Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art, Hoffberger School of Painting. His MFA mentors were Grace Hartigan and (Monuments Man) Salvatore Scarpitta, joined by Alex Katz to form Lovens MFA thesis committee. In 1997 and 1998 Loven completed Professional Development coursework in design at Harvard University with Massimo Vignelli and others. Loven's paintings have been included in group shows at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Minnesota Museum of Art, Butler Institute of American Art, Santa Monica Art Museum, and Louis Meisel Gallery, New York, NY. Lovens first solo show at Kenneth Paul Lesko Gallery Variations on the Sublime was presented in 2012. Since 2006 Loven has held the rank of Professor of Art at The University of Akrons Myers School of Art.
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