Since Joseph Raffael’s move to France from California, almost 30 years ago, the artist has focused exclusively on watercolor, using it in ways unique to him, working wet into wet, as if he were painting in oil. Serendipitous events occur as the paint flows fluidly through what Robert Hughes, the former Times magazine critic, called his “jewel encrusted’ passages. No one uses the medium the way he does.
Over the years he has devoted himself to the subject of nature, zeroing in on the essence of a flower, reflections on water, the shimmer of a swimming koi. Everything he paints is in his own backyard: the garden his wife planted with a flowers in all hues of the rainbow; the pond his son built, filled with koi; a view of the Mediterranean sea out his studio window. He lives in what one might aptly call, an “earthy paradise.”
In conjunction with the publication of a new book entitled “Moving Toward the Light—the Work of Joseph Raffael,” this exhibition comprises approximately 30 watercolors of heroic scale of the artist’s favorite subjects: flowers, koi, water, shells, fossils. Following his gallery exhibition “JR @80” his most recent works reveal that light is the artist’s prime subject of exploration and interest. Pervading each image is the pure light that emanates from his brush as well as from the sun that shines over the sea where he resides.
Measuring 5 x 8 feet these commanding works encompass the viewer in a world the eye cannot behold in nature. They invite the viewer into moments of thought and contemplation, of music and harmony of peace and quiet.. Donald Kuspit, the renowned author and critic wrote of Raffael “ After a century of negation, it is time for affirmation, time for Raffael’s paintings, time to return to paradise with him.” As David Pagel, the Los Angeles Times art critic wrote: “Raffael’s paintings capture the manner in which we interact with the world when we are most alive to its details, attuned to its nuances, and in touch with its mysteries.”
This is the first comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s works since the traveling museum show in the late 70’s, “The California Years,” which began at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and traveled to Denver, Des Moines, Joslyn and Newport.