Interview with Tony Serio – Portray Perceptions

I’m happy to current this zoom interview with the Manhattan-based painter Tony Serio, who’s presently displaying his work within the Bowery Gallery’s two-person present, Uptown Work, Michael Louis Johnson/Tony Serio. (see hyperlink to online presentation) I turned 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 means of the area 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 commentary. I want to thank him for the beneficiant contribution of his time and vitality with this interview.

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

from his web site about web page:

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

Park and Courtroom, 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 academics. The primary yr was extra basic, the place we did portray, sculpture, and images. I used to be conscious of the nice assortment at Yale Artwork Gallery and had already been there however as I used to be extra knowledgeable about totally different artists, it turned an important useful resource and a favourite place to spend time. The final yr I selected portray and drawing and had a instructor that basically bought me on the trajectory I’m nonetheless on immediately. Peter Ziou launched me to working from life and “trying.” I noticed I had a protracted solution to go however he was so supportive and inspiring. So, I went to the Maryland Institute Faculty of Artwork on his suggestion from 1974 to 1978.

LG:
I’ve heard there are a number 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 have been fortunate to check with such an important 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 shortly bought 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 in school. The Baltimore Museum of Artwork, which had the Cone Assortment with Matisse’s work, was such an necessary 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 atmosphere and portray, after some time, I might lose the sensation of being uncomfortable and self-conscious and simply be there for that goal. Principally, 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 academics I had and was so blissful to be at that college.

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

LG:
Whenever 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 pupil, David Gloman, within the class behind me who painted outdoors. A very advantageous painter devoted to portray open air then and now; you’ll be able to observe his posts.

Two Males Combating, 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 open air in DC lots earlier than grad college. However at Yale, I used to be extra taken with portray the determine. I did a number 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 possibly can do no matter you needed. I did paint outdoors there a number of instances. I needed to make studio work, utilizing the assets I had, the determine drawings from my courses and my creativeness. I used to be nonetheless observing issues, reminiscent of my studio inside. However I used to be extra taken with methods to assemble a portray.

I used to be considering lots about Fernand Léger and Matisse, there was one thing about Léger that caught with me, trying 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 considering lots about Max Beckmann and dealing with a compressed, psychologically charged area. I needed to rise to the event and make large confrontational work, though 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 centered 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 finished this shortly and it felt proper. I later moved right into a Brooklyn residence with Sally, who turned my spouse, she had a yellow desk with vegetation and varied 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 means. My strategy turned nearer to what I used to be doing earlier than I went to Yale. Nevertheless, 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 necessary to me, and I noticed my energy was in working from notion.

Yale was a high-pressure state of affairs, and I had no thought going into it. Lots of people appeared to be extra knowledgeable of this, however we have been all challenged by it and benefited ultimately. 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 taken with displaying naturalistic landscapes. My guess is that they discover it appears too just like well-liked plein air portray and that it will have much less enchantment to their higher-end collectors. 

Tony Serio:
In fact, they’re concerning 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’d imply the work has bought to have some edgy, cynical or disturbing content material that’s excessive and calculating. These are the issues which are extra prone to be proven and bought. Then there may be John Bradford, a former Bowery Gallery member, who has gallery illustration now. He does these unbelievable 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:
In case you are primarily attempting to make one thing that’s lovely or aesthetically necessary from a portray’s formal perspective, one thing that includes assembly the requirements of previous traditions of portray, it may be an uphill battle in the event you’re coping with individuals who solely have a restricted understanding or appreciation. You possibly can’t actually clarify or educate a gallery director why they need to present your portray.

Tony Serio:
I’ve had a very good response from folks concerning the work that I’ve up now in my present. I begin to assume that persons 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 solution to step again to take a look at what you’ve finished. I attempt to go to as many openings as I can and help the opposite members of the Bowery Gallery. We help one another, and we’ve this nice neighborhood. And that’s a beauty of this, as , being a part of a co-op gallery, you have got this camaraderie and attempt to construct on it. 

LG:
You have been just lately within the very spectacular present “Light of Day” at the Westbeth gallery.
How was that for you?

Tony Serio:
The “Mild of Day” present happened when a bunch of like-minded panorama painters bought collectively to prepare a present. Westbeth was our first alternative, however we have been contemplating different venues. We determined to ask acknowledged artists within the discipline, 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 along with her to hold the present. We additionally thank the galleries that lent works for the exhibition.

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

Tony Serio:
I’ve this ebook of Andrea Mantegna right here, and I identical to the best way he works his figures into the area. They could appear inflexible however they all the time maintain my curiosity in how they outline the area. If I’m going to the Metropolitan Museum, I all the time should 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 wish to get in my work.

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

The large portray of the volleyball gamers in my current present has a number 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 recent and eccentric. However, ultimately, I’m after a stable development with the figures in a spacial second.

I had been Lennart Anderson’s avenue work and the present at NYSS was a just-in-time present for me. I assumed I might by no means see these older avenue 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 really portray, I’m not anyone, simply engaged on the portray, however I feel 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 one in every of your figures?

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

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

Tony Serio:
That’s a very good query, one in every of my work that I bought from the Westbeth exhibition is a protracted, horizontal portray titled Summer season. The bicyclist coming in direction of us and the individual working have been made up. After which the folks on the bottom laying come principally from life-drawing periods. The one on the bicycle I made up by observing and drawing from reminiscence as bicycles went backwards and forwards.

Summer season, 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 little bit of it after which one other automotive go previous— and paint a little bit extra, combining every glimpse to progressively construct up a automotive. What I did wasn’t precisely that. I feel I simply tried to get one thing in my thoughts and put it down. How would the determine be on this place? For the large 4 by eight-foot giant volleyball portray, I made up a number of figures from drawing on website. The gamers are all the time shifting round and the ball goes backwards and forwards, so I see their poses, then I strive to attract that. Then I might readjust the pose with extra trying 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 concentrate on it. Hardly ever do you paint on the similar time you’re trying on the topic; there may be 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 fastidiously noticed, I sense that you just’re viscerally engaged along with your motif however on the similar 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 Courtroom Avenue that I used to be taken with for the buildings however once I bought house to take a look at the pictures, there have been folks 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 a protracted horizontal canvas, about 28” x 62”, that I began indoors. There was a passage of bushes that I simply couldn’t make sense of within the picture I used to be utilizing, so I made a decision to take it outdoors. As soon as I bought on the market and managed to get the canvas setup and it was clear as day what I needed to do. I may clearly see how the foliage was layered. So, I developed a hybrid working course of that features direct commentary, 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 current present, I painted on location to get the court docket and bushes then I used a photograph to populate the court docket. A photograph I took captured one participant moving 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 really seeing it because it occurred so quick, however I couldn’t resist making a portray round that second.

It’s not that I wish to make sports activities motion work, nevertheless it’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 trying photographic. Take a look at Degas, Cezanne and Matisse.

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

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

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

I assumed I might return and work on that portray extra, and I could 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 hassle 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 colour.” 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 choices I made and the way it modified. I needed to construct up with extra figures as I went alongside. The sooner photographs have been extra simplified and fairly clear however I sacrificed some issues to realize in different methods. As I seemed extra on the work, I noticed I needed to hold shrinking the figures till the proportion to the area felt proper. This portray was a means 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 folks 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 folks is that they are typically reserved and reluctant to return as much as me whereas I’m portray. A number of would possibly discuss to me a little 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 all people’s into their very own factor, the blokes are enjoying volleyball over there, persons are cooking outdoors and having fun with the music that they blast out. Typically I really feel virtually invisible. Which is what I would like, I don’t wish 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 very crowded sidewalk. I can’t think about anyone doing that, nonetheless, perhaps you’ve seen the video of Antonio Lopez Garcia painting in Madrid? The place and he had like perhaps 50-60 folks 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 season Sundown with Towers, 30 X 48 inches, Oil on Linen, 2022

Sure, portray the view from my window has been a predominant keep for me. I dwell on 162nd Avenue 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 flooring. I all the time have a decrease street drive in my views once I embody the view of the park and bushes beneath.

LG:
Good in the event you do a number 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 turned 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 basically modified my understanding of panorama area. I lastly bought a deal with on it, nevertheless it 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 turned an evening portray.

LG:
I discovered the watercolors and drawings in your web site very intriguing. A variety of them appeared distinctive and maybe convey Cezanne’s panorama watercolors to thoughts. Do you take into account them research or impartial works? Are these finished 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 may paint over and alter issues as I do with oil portray.

I attempted doing watercolor however bought discouraged as this may very well be actually fussy and approach(y) however boy, while you see an important watercolor like a Winslow Homer, they will actually knock your socks off. It was nice to see all these Cezanne watercolors within the MOMA present. I undoubtedly had lots to remove from that present. I feel you need to make many of those to get good and never be afraid to make some that may go into the waste basket. It teaches you to again off.  My downside goes too far and attempting to “end” the watercolor. It will look nice at the start however I’d see yet one more factor needing to be mounted, and earlier than 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 angle strategy leaving the white of the paper and take a look at to not convey it to my thought of end. I’ll draw with the comb and begin from a degree. It was extra attention-grabbing for me to develop it out from there and construct out moderately than considering of the composition masking the paper. I’m attempting to let it occur and never get in the best way, a extra spontaneous, recent strategy.

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

Tony Serio:
No, I haven’t nevertheless it’s good thought to change media infrequently.

LG:
Are you able to speak about what you concentrate on 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 concerning the urgency of portray, the urgency of getting one thing down. Issues which are about to vary or it’s going to maneuver. The sunshine is all the time altering, and I’m simply attempting to get that second. These are the issues I select to take care of or I may keep inside and setup a extra managed state of affairs. I confirmed with Lynn Kotula many instances, who’s work I all the time admired from the primary time I noticed it. She was a very good panorama painter however selected to color nonetheless life and to not “chase the sunshine”. So, it’s a matter of decisions 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 feel that helps. When engaged on a portray and feeling boxed in, I could make a change, repaint, or transfer barely to open it up. In my giant canvas that I labored on indoors, I modified a number of the determine groupings as I might go and get recent enter from my park sketches and watercolors.

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

LG:
For a very long time, I felt that portray from life was an necessary means for painters to keep away from being cliched. I’ve typically thought that portray from life and the nice focus required to color from commentary within the urgency of adjusting gentle and environment helps to lose any self-consciousness. You get right into a zone that may enable a extra genuine self to return out. Is that this one thing you concentrate on as properly? What extra are you able to say about this?

Tony Serio:
I normally 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 directly, going for the appropriate mark, tone, and colour. It’s demanding work. Typically I deal with areas and actually don’t have an thought of the remainder of the portray however, one way or the other, it hangs collectively higher than I assumed it will. If not, then different areas have to vary or be introduced as much as the extent of newly labored elements. After I convey the portray indoors, I don’t know if it’s full till I get a ways on it. Most instances I discover there’s nothing else to do, and I’ve an entire assertion.

Tony Serio Working On website

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

Tony Serio:
A lot of the work are concerning the park and I’m working on-site for probably 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. Up to now, the figures have been notes within the portray or gave scale to the panorama.

The work from the window are concerning the large sky. I all the time wish to get as a lot within the image as attainable and stretch it to its restrict. In doing that, I made the view extra concerning the sweep of the bottom and the street beneath. Recently, 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, nevertheless it stays very a lot a working drawing.

Volleyball Gamers, Examine, 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 means of incidental views from a window or dense groupings of bushes 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 strategy to portray has a powerful angle of drawing the place the mark of the instrument and hand of the artist is obvious.

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