Interview with Tony Serio – Portray Perceptions

I’m happy to current this zoom interview with the Manhattan-based painter Tony Serio, who’s at the moment displaying his work within the Bowery Gallery’s two-person present, Uptown Work, Michael Louis Johnson/Tony Serio. (see hyperlink to online presentation) I grew to become acquainted with Tony Serio’s work after viewing his work on-line from the Westbeth Gallery’s exhibition, LIGHT OF DAY, The Language of Landscape that was curated by Karen Wilkin in March 2022.
I used to be drawn to his vigor and sensitivity, in addition to the expressive paint dealing with of his figures within the panorama. The painterly summation of the figures enhances the gestural motion of sunshine by way of the house and elevates the literal to a lyrical response to the setting. Serio right here discusses at size his background, portray course of, and ideas on how he goes about portray the city panorama from statement. I want to thank him for the beneficiant contribution of his time and vitality with this interview.

Below Riverside Drive, oil on linen, 26x 32, 2017

from his web site about web page:

“Serio studied at Yale College of Artwork and Maryland Institute Faculty of Artwork. Solo reveals on the Bowery Gallery and different New York venues. Group reveals embrace: Alpha Gallery, Boston, MA; The Drawing Middle, NY; The Babcock Gallery, NY and The Hopper Home, Nyack, NY. Awards embrace: Alice B. Kimball Grant for touring in Italy, Yale College; Drawing Middle Present Award and NoMAA (Northern Manhattan Arts Affiliation) Grants in 2008 and 2011 to color a collection of Hudson River Greenway landscapes. Collections embrace Donald and Allison Innes, Columbia College and numerous different personal collectors.”

Park and Court docket, Blue and White Tents, 30 X 40 inches, Oil on Canvas, 2022

Larry Groff:
How did you get your begin with portray? Please say one thing about your expertise at artwork college.

Tony Serio:
I used to be fortunate to have an arts program the place I lived in New Haven throughout my final two years of highschool. There I had Yale graduates as lecturers. The primary yr was extra normal, the place we did portray, sculpture, and pictures. I used to be conscious of the good assortment at Yale Artwork Gallery and had already been there however as I used to be extra knowledgeable about totally different artists, it grew to become a terrific useful resource and a favourite place to spend time. The final yr I selected portray and drawing and had a instructor that basically received me on the trajectory I’m nonetheless on at this time. Peter Ziou launched me to working from life and “wanting.” I spotted I had an extended option to go however he was so supportive and inspiring. So, I went to the Maryland Institute Faculty of Artwork on his advice from 1974 to 1978.

LG:
I’ve heard there are a whole lot of panorama painters who taught there; is that proper?

Tony Serio:
Sure, primarily due to Eugene Leake, who was a panorama painter and ran the entire present at the moment. My first instructor was Raoul Intermediary.

LG:
I learn that he handed away final yr. You had been fortunate to review with such a terrific painter.

Tony Serio:
I used to be so sorry to listen to about his passing. I studied with him for my first yr there, proper out of highschool, and he rapidly received you in the midst of it. Baltimore additionally had such nice museums, the Walters Artwork Museum with so many different nice painters like Manet, Ingres, Delacroix, such a praise to what Intermediary was speaking about at school. The Baltimore Museum of Artwork, which had the Cone Assortment with Matisse’s work, was such an essential a part of my training that one other instructor, Anne Tabachnick, launched me to. Intermediary gave me my first style, and going outdoors in a public city setting and portray, after some time, I might lose the sensation of being uncomfortable and self-conscious and simply be there for that goal. Mainly, we got here at it with no matter expertise we had after which we improved by working at it and the most effective examples we had within the museums. I’m grateful for the numerous fantastic lecturers I had and was so comfortable to be at that faculty.

Tony Serio:
At a sure level, I had gotten away from alla prima portray and needed to work in a extra sustained manner, so I didn’t paint outdoors as a lot. After residing in Brooklyn, NY some time, I ultimately returned to going outdoors to color once more.

LG:
If you went to graduate college at Yale, did they discourage you from portray outdoors?

Tony Serio:
No, they didn’t do this; there was one scholar, David Gloman, within the class behind me who painted outdoors. A very fantastic painter devoted to portray outside then and now; you’ll be able to observe his posts.

Two Males Preventing, 40 x 54 inches, Oil on Canvas, 1986

Evening Encounter, 52 x 66 inches, Oil on Canvas, 1985

I’m initially from the New Haven space and moved again from Baltimore after undergraduate college for a yr after which moved to Washington DC, for 3 years. I did paint outside in DC loads earlier than grad college. However at Yale, I used to be extra all in favour of portray the determine. I did a whole lot of determine drawings. I took Lester Johnson’s and Bernie Chaet’s class, I thought-about myself a studio painter. Nobody was saying, you’ll be able to’t paint outdoors; you may do no matter you needed. I did paint outdoors there a couple of occasions. I needed to make studio work, utilizing the sources I had, the determine drawings from my courses and my creativeness. I used to be nonetheless observing issues, resembling my studio inside. However I used to be extra all in favour of methods to assemble a portray.

I used to be pondering loads about Fernand Léger and Matisse, there was one thing about Léger that caught with me, wanting again to how my earlier instructor from Maryland Artwork Institute, Anne Tabachnick, who having studied with Hans Hoffman, launched me to modernist portray ideas. I additionally was pondering loads about Max Beckmann and dealing with a compressed, psychologically charged house. I needed to rise to the event and make huge confrontational work, regardless that that won’t have been my pure inclination. I might drag these out for the ultimate semester crits.

I needed to color an inside world from my creativeness, and even after my graduate research, I targeted on the figures and the psychological tensions between the figures. I had a grant from Yale to journey, the place I went to Italy for 5 weeks. The Caravaggio’s in Rome made an enormous impression on me. I liked the depth of the darks in his work.

Yellow Desk Nonetheless Life, 37 x 48 inches, Oil on Canvas, 1988

Tony Serio:
After grad college, I moved to Brooklyn and shared a studio in Dumbo. At one level, I painted a view from the fireplace escape, I hadn’t accomplished this shortly and it felt proper. I later moved right into a Brooklyn residence with Sally, who grew to become my spouse, she had a yellow desk with vegetation and numerous objects on it that I made a portray from. That portray was a turning level for me. Noticed gentle got here again into my portray in a brand new manner. My method grew to become nearer to what I used to be doing earlier than I went to Yale. Nonetheless, it was not fairly the identical as a result of the portray was knowledgeable by my expertise at Yale. I used to be questioning what was essential to me, and I noticed my energy was in working from notion.

Yale was a high-pressure scenario, and I had no concept going into it. Lots of people appeared to be extra knowledgeable of this, however we had been all challenged by it and benefited in the long run. I’m grateful for the buddies I made there and the way we supported one another.

Spring, Distant Rain, 48 x 56 inches, Oil on Linen, 2014-15

LG:
My expertise right here in California is that many galleries aren’t all in favour of displaying naturalistic landscapes. My guess is that they discover it seems too just like in style plein air portray and that it might have much less enchantment to their higher-end collectors. 

Tony Serio:
After all, they’re in regards to the enterprise of selling and promoting work.

LG:
Is that a lot totally different in New York? Would you say there’s a wider acceptance and appreciation of panorama portray?

Tony Serio:
No, not a lot. I imply, it is dependent upon your angle. Typically it would imply the work has received to have some edgy, cynical or disturbing content material that’s excessive and calculating. These are the issues which can be extra prone to be proven and bought. Then there’s John Bradford, a former Bowery Gallery member, who has gallery illustration now. He does these incredible imaginary historic landscapes and interiors that aren’t cynical in any respect. They’re all about portray and an exquisite narrative. To not point out Stanley Lewis and Rackstraw Downes at Betty Cunningham. Clearly, these are painters of nice integrity and don’t have anything to do with what I described above.

LG:
If you’re primarily making an attempt to make one thing that’s lovely or aesthetically essential from a portray’s formal perspective, one thing that entails assembly the requirements of previous traditions of portray, it may be an uphill battle should you’re coping with individuals who solely have a restricted understanding or appreciation. You’ll be able to’t actually clarify or train a gallery director why they need to present your portray.

Tony Serio:
I’ve had a extremely good response from individuals in regards to the work that I’ve up now in my present. I begin to assume that individuals are lastly responding to my work. I’m getting extra consideration and recognition from my friends in order that feels good and sort of astounding.

I’m working full-time (as a graphic designer), and in my “free time”, I run to do my portray. So having a present is a option to step again to take a look at what you’ve accomplished. I attempt to go to as many openings as I can and assist the opposite members of the Bowery Gallery. We assist one another, and we’ve this nice group. And that’s a wonderful thing about this, as you recognize, being a part of a co-op gallery, you have got this camaraderie and attempt to construct on it. 

LG:
You had been not too long ago within the very spectacular present “Light of Day” at the Westbeth gallery.
How was that for you?

Tony Serio:
The “Gentle of Day” present took place when a bunch of like-minded panorama painters received collectively to prepare a present. Westbeth was our first selection, however we had been contemplating different venues. We determined to ask acknowledged artists within the area, Stanley Lewis, Lois Dodd, and Al Kresch. It was such an honor to have our work hanging alongside the painters we championed. Karen Wilken graciously accepted our request to curate the present. It was nice expertise working together with her to hold the present. We additionally thank the galleries that lent works for the exhibition.

LG:
Who’re some painters who’re at the moment most influential to you? What artwork books would possibly you have got open proper now in your studio?

Tony Serio:
I’ve this e-book of Andrea Mantegna right here, and I identical to the way in which he works his figures into the house. They could appear inflexible however they all the time maintain my curiosity in how they outline the house. If I’m going to the Metropolitan Museum, I all the time must cease and have to take a look at Mantegna. Additionally, the Carpaccio within the Met and those I noticed in Venice. Carpaccio created work about saints with a story however turned it into an eyewitness occasion. That’s one thing that I need to get in my work.

Vittore Carpaccio, The Baptism of the Gentiles, Tempera on canvas, 1507,
Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice

The massive portray of the volleyball gamers in my latest present has a whole lot of figures. They began multiplying as I labored on it, just like the pageantry Carpaccio has in his work. There’s additionally this incidental stuff occurring, making it contemporary and kooky. However, in the long run, I’m after a strong development with the figures in a spacial second.

I had been Lennart Anderson’s road work and the present at NYSS was a just-in-time present for me. I believed I might by no means see these older road work once more. I typically have a look at different painters out of the nook of my eye or once I go to museums, I would see one thing at the moment that would spark one thing in my portray. After I’m truly portray, I’m not anyone, simply engaged on the portray, however I believe all these items is there, and it percolates up and comes out within the work.

LG:
So, would you ever take the figures in somebody like Carpaccio or different early Renaissance painters to make use of as a supply for considered one of your figures?

Tony Serio:
No, I don’t do this. It’s one thing I needs to be open to.

LG:
I’m curious to know extra about your ideas about incorporating your figures into the panorama, the house. Particularly the works that you just’ve accomplished within the park there at Riverside, enjoying volleyball, jogging and hanging out within the park.

Tony Serio:
That’s a superb query, considered one of my work that I bought from the Westbeth exhibition is an extended, horizontal portray titled Summer time. The bicyclist coming in direction of us and the particular person operating had been made up. After which the individuals on the bottom laying come principally from life-drawing classes. The one on the bicycle I made up by observing and drawing from reminiscence as bicycles went forwards and backwards.

Summer time, 26 x 48 inches, Oil on Linen, 2017

I keep in mind how Rackstraw Downes talked about portray vehicles passing by on the freeway. He mentioned a automotive would go by and paint a bit of it after which one other automotive go previous— and paint a bit extra, combining every glimpse to progressively construct up a automotive. What I did wasn’t precisely that. I believe I simply tried to get one thing in my thoughts and put it down. How would the determine be on this place? For the massive 4 by eight-foot giant volleyball portray, I made up a whole lot of figures from drawing on web site. The gamers are all the time shifting round and the ball goes forwards and backwards, so I see their poses, then I strive to attract that. Then I might readjust the pose with extra wanting and shifting the arm or leg into a brand new place. So, I’m actually observing and dealing from reminiscence.

LG:
I’ve heard it mentioned that working from life is definitely working from reminiscence when you consider it. Not often do you paint on the identical time you’re wanting on the topic; there’s all the time the lag of seconds or minutes from while you take your eyes off the topic to combine and apply the paint – from the reminiscence of what you noticed.

That mentioned, your work seems rigorously noticed, I sense that you just’re viscerally engaged along with your motif however on the identical time, there’s a synthesis of creativeness and abstraction occurring, particularly with the figures.

Atlantic Avenue, 11 X 14 inches, Oil on Panel, 2002

Tony Serio:
After I lived in Brooklyn, I painted the streets close by and Cobble Hill Park. I purchased a digital digicam to take pictures of my work however took it outdoors to {photograph} what I used to be portray. There was a busy intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Court docket Road that I used to be all in favour of for the buildings however once I received residence to take a look at the photographs, there have been individuals crossing the road that I don’t keep in mind seeing. I used to be within the motion and gesture {that a} {photograph} captures. So, for some time, I labored from these pictures and continued once I moved to Washington Heights. Although I nonetheless went out and painted on-site, I needed to make bigger studio work. I used to be doing a collection of work down by Hudson River Park and had an extended horizontal canvas, about 28” x 62”, that I began indoors. There was a passage of timber that I simply couldn’t make sense of within the photograph I used to be utilizing, so I made a decision to take it outdoors. As soon as I received on the market and managed to get the canvas setup and it was clear as day what I needed to do. I might clearly see how the foliage was layered. So, I developed a hybrid working course of that features direct statement, drawing, and small portray research and pictures as wanted.

Bike Path and Overpass, Panorama, 28 x 62 inches, Oil on Linen, 2011

Within the smaller portray of the volleyball gamers in my latest present, I painted on location to get the courtroom and timber then I used a photograph to populate the courtroom. A photograph I took captured one participant entering into place to hit the ball and he’s low to the bottom with one arm prolonged. Once more, I don’t keep in mind truly seeing it because it occurred so quick, however I couldn’t resist making a portray round that second.

It’s not that I need to make sports activities motion work, but it surely’s the thought of motion and the potential for one thing to occur. My feeling is that pictures can and have been used as supply materials with out wanting photographic. Take a look at Degas, Cezanne and Matisse.

LG:
Fascinating. Your work combine the figures very effectively with the remainder of the portray. They really feel constant and don’t stick out or really feel misplaced. 

Tony Serio: .
All the things is in the identical portray language.

Volleyball Gamers and Court docket, 32 X 40 inches, Oil on Canvas, 2021

I believed I might return and work on that portray extra, and I’ll have made minor changes however felt that assertion was there. I all the time take into consideration what Matisse mentioned about Giotto. “After I see the Giotto frescoes at Padua, I don’t bother to acknowledge which scene from the lifetime of Christ I’ve earlier than me. I understand immediately the sentiment that radiates from it, and which is intuition within the composition in each line and coloration.” The content material isn’t within the facial expressions or particulars however within the components of the composition.

When engaged on the bigger volleyball gamers, I documented every stage for myself to see the selections I made and the way it modified. I needed to construct up with extra figures as I went alongside. The sooner photos had been extra simplified and fairly clear however I sacrificed some issues to achieve in different methods. As I appeared extra on the work, I spotted I needed to preserve shrinking the figures till the proportion to the house felt proper. This portray was a manner for me to get again to creating within the studio.

LG:
Do you discover engaged on giant work outdoors an issue with the wind, bugs, gawkers and loopy individuals interrupting you and such?

Volleyball Gamers and Spectators, 48 X 96 inches, Oil on Canvas, 2021-22

Tony Serio:
With bigger canvases, I’ve to fret about wind particularly working down by the river. There are rocks alongside the riverside that I put in my French easel after which use bungie cords to carry the canvas in place. My expertise with individuals is that they are typically reserved and reluctant to come back as much as me whereas I’m portray. A couple of would possibly discuss to me a bit bit and I welcome that. If I had an excessive amount of of it, I might be much less welcoming, however I’m on the market within the park and everyone’s into their very own factor, the fellows are enjoying volleyball over there, individuals are cooking outdoors and having fun with the music that they blast out. Generally I really feel nearly invisible. Which is what I would like, I don’t need to be an attraction. After I’m “within the second” and dealing on one thing, all of the noise appears to recede.

LG:
Portray in a park is probably going totally different than portray in additional city environment. You’re in all probability not going to color on a extremely crowded sidewalk. I can’t think about anyone doing that, nevertheless, perhaps you’ve seen the video of Antonio Lopez Garcia painting in Madrid? The place and he had like perhaps 50-60 individuals round him watching him paint. 

You additionally paint out your window from the place you reside on Riverside Drive, is that proper?

Tony Serio:

I took a have a look at that video and that’s Plaza del Sol in Madrid. I keep in mind going there quickly after we arrived in Madrid for the primary time. That might be like establishing in Instances Sq..

Summer time Sundown with Towers, 30 X 48 inches, Oil on Linen, 2022

Sure, portray the view from my window has been a primary keep for me. I stay on 162nd Road and Riverside Drive. Riverside Drive splits off and I’m on the service street, which climbs up and we’re on the high of the hill on the fifth ground. I all the time have a decrease street drive in my views once I embrace the view of the park and timber beneath.

LG:
Good should you do a whole lot of your work out the window.

Tony Serio:
Sure, there’s the George Washington bridge, the park beneath and an enormous sky.

Winter Evening Reflections, 40 x 46 inches, Oil on Linen, 2018

LG:
Are you able to inform me extra about portray out your window and the evening portray you talked about?

Tony Serio:
The very first thing I needed to do was an evening portray which proved to be past me at that time. It will definitely grew to become a nightfall portray. I had a tough time portray within the full gentle of day, however I realized a lot from tackling that view. It fully modified my sense of aerial perspective and essentially modified my understanding of panorama house. I lastly received a deal with on it, but it surely actually gave me run for my cash. I ended up masking over many early makes an attempt with more moderen works. Ultimately, that first try lastly grew to become an evening portray.

LG:
I discovered the watercolors and drawings in your web site very intriguing. Various them appeared distinctive and maybe carry Cezanne’s panorama watercolors to thoughts. Do you contemplate them research or impartial works? Are these accomplished on-site? What are you able to say about your watercolors and drawings.

Park Volleyball Spectators, Fall, 12 x 16 inches, Watercolor

Tony Serio:
The water-based media I most popular to make use of was opaque gouache as a result of I might paint over and alter issues as I do with oil portray.

I attempted doing watercolor however received discouraged as this might be actually fussy and method(y) however boy, while you see a terrific watercolor like a Winslow Homer, they’ll actually knock your socks off. It was nice to see all these Cezanne watercolors within the MOMA present. I positively had loads to remove from that present. I believe you must make many of those to get good and never be afraid to make some that can go into the waste basket. It teaches you to again off.  My downside goes too far and making an attempt to “end” the watercolor. It might look nice firstly however I’d see yet one more factor needing to be fastened, and earlier than you recognize it—it simply dies, turns into one thing flabby, dropping readability and crispness of the colour and marks. So, lastly, I made a decision to take a drawing perspective method leaving the white of the paper and check out to not carry it to my concept of end. I’ll draw with the comb and begin from a degree. It was extra fascinating for me to develop it out from there and construct out slightly than pondering of the composition masking the paper. I’m making an attempt to let it occur and never get in the way in which, a extra spontaneous, contemporary method.

LG:
Have you ever ever tried utilizing acrylic gouache? It was new to me however I not too long ago tried it and located it dries in a short time and simply permits you to paint in matte opaque layers just like gouache however doesn’t get powdery, and the colour covers higher. Perhaps it might reduce the danger of one thing showing to be overworked. I believe it’s nice for research and experimenting with visible concepts. 

Tony Serio:
No, I haven’t but it surely’s good concept to modify media once in a while.

LG:
Are you able to discuss what you consider and the way you go about capturing the second of a scene—the sense of place and high quality of the sunshine and time of day? How do you maintain that preliminary pleasure and feeling of that second over the course of a bigger, extra advanced portray?

Spring Timber, Neighborhood Park, 22 x 28 inches, Oil on Canvas, 2019

Tony Serio:
It’s in regards to the urgency of portray, the urgency of getting one thing down. Issues which can be about to alter or it’s going to maneuver. The sunshine is all the time altering, and I’m simply making an attempt to get that second. These are the issues I select to take care of or I might keep inside and setup a extra managed scenario. I confirmed with Lynn Kotula many occasions, who’s work I all the time admired from the primary time I noticed it. She was a superb panorama painter however selected to color nonetheless life and to not “chase the sunshine”. So, it’s a matter of selections and mine is evident.

I’ve had others inform me that my work has a way of place and I like that. I don’t know the way aware I’m of doing that. I stick with a spot or have a number of spots that I return to which have turn into acquainted to me and I believe that helps. When engaged on a portray and feeling boxed in, I’ll make a change, repaint, or transfer barely to open it up. In my giant canvas that I labored on indoors, I modified a few of the determine groupings as I might go and get contemporary enter from my park sketches and watercolors.

Portray the window view has an entire different set of issues. I need to paint clouds now so how do I do this? I might use pictures and I’ve. I’ve but to essentially construct up research that I can work from. I’ve been in a position to get some works by simply going at it instantly alla prima.

LG:
For a very long time, I felt that portray from life was an essential manner for painters to keep away from being cliched. I’ve typically thought that portray from life and the good focus required to color from statement within the urgency of fixing gentle and environment helps to lose any self-consciousness. You get right into a zone that may enable a extra genuine self to come back out. Is that this one thing you consider as effectively? What extra are you able to say about this?

Tony Serio:
I often have a bunch of instruments in my hand, brushes, and palette knives. I’m switching instruments, going from one to a different and portray the tree trunk, then portray the branches and the areas in between. I attempt to make it occur without delay, going for the best mark, tone, and coloration. It’s demanding work. Generally I concentrate on areas and actually don’t have an concept of the remainder of the portray however, someway, it hangs collectively higher than I believed it might. If not, then different areas have to alter or be introduced as much as the extent of newly labored elements. After I carry the portray indoors, I don’t know if it’s full till I get far on it. Most occasions I discover there’s nothing else to do, and I’ve a whole assertion.

Tony Serio Working On web site

LG:
Something extra you’d prefer to say in regards to the work in your present that’s up now?

Tony Serio:
A lot of the work are in regards to the park and I’m working on-site for essentially the most half and the others are a hybrid of various sources as I described earlier than. I’m having the determine extra prominently offered and their exercise. Previously, the figures had been notes within the portray or gave scale to the panorama.

The work from the window are in regards to the huge sky. I all the time need to get as a lot within the image as attainable and stretch it to its restrict. In doing that, I made the view extra in regards to the sweep of the bottom and the street beneath. Currently, I’ve been concentrating on the sky and clouds and leaving only a strip of land on the underside to anchor the composition.

River Sundown, 18 X 36 inches, Oil on Canvas, 2022

LG:
Do you have got a lot of your drawings within the present?

Tony Serio:
I’ve sketches that impressed the big portray and watercolors in a rack for anybody to peruse. On my web site, I’ve a pastel drawing about half the scale with the identical proportions as a big volleyball portray. I drew from my useful resource drawings to place collectively what was to be the beginning of my bigger canvas. I labored on this as the big one was in progress, but it surely stays very a lot a working drawing.

Volleyball Gamers, Research, 30 x 60 inches, Charcoal/Pastel

It has been my pleasure to point out with Michael Louis Johnson on the Bowery Gallery in our present referred to as “Uptown Work”. Our work discover higher Manhattan by way of incidental views from a window or dense groupings of timber in our native metropolis parks. Michael focuses on an vintage backyard out his entrance room window with its odd incline and the box-like surrounding wall utilizing oil pigment sticks working with brushes and his hand. I might say our method to portray has a powerful perspective of drawing the place the mark of the instrument and hand of the artist is clear.

Michael L. Johnson, Fountain Border, 25 x 61 inches, Oil Pigment Stick and Charcoal on Canvas