I choose the title for this show, "A Joint Show with Myself", with deliberate whimsy, because the show displays examples of two collections of my recent work that are distinctively different thematically yet proceed from the identical creative impulses, instincts and interests. Specifically, this show combines works displayed in the Main Gallery which I have termed "Collective Iconographies" ... with the works displayed in the East Gallery, which I call "Stories."
Hill describes his "Collective Iconographies" as assembling and juxtaposing multiple iconic portraits and grouping them together thematically. Images are drawn from a wide array of familiar media - magazine covers, coins, sculpture, photographs, comic books and the like. Each painting seeks to faithfully imitate the style, medium and vocabulary of the original images to ensure that they are readily recognizable.
Each set of portraits coalesces around a unifying - often humorous - theme. The first-person voice in the titles keeps the focus on the idiosyncratic selection and juxtaposition of images while hinting at - but not explicitly revealing that theme. For example, "I Rip-Off Sherlock Holmes" is an oblique allusion to one of Holmes' best-known yarns, "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League." Thus, viewers can explore the interplay of images and discover for themselves, the unifying theme.
Embedded in each work are numerous delilberate, humorous, thoughtful or just quirky juxtapositions to be discovered. For example, in "I Rip-Off Sherlock Holmes," Lucille Ball is paired with Wilma Flintstone, a cartoon character modeled on Lucille Ball; in "I Challenge Thinkers and Doers to a Tug-O-War," Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist, faces Robert Oppenheimer, builder of the first atomic bomb; and so on. Hence, to the viewer, each painting presents a sort of puzzle to be solved.
Hill's "Stories" are so-called because each combines and, in some cases, re-imagines narrative elements from one or several fables, folk tales, myths, legends and histories. The works are loosely inspired by pre and early - renaissance treatments of biblical or mythical accounts, which often depicted elements with disparate scales, chronology, geography, and even narratives as though all transpired in the same time and space within the four corners of the painting.
"When Will We Three Meet Again?" are words spoken by three witches in the introduction to Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth. Here, the witches are three quasi-historical women who rose to power in a man's world only to be branded witches or the like - Joan of Arc, Pope Joan and the Pharaoh Hatshepsut, also thought to be the biblical Queen of Sheba.
"This Train is Bound for Glory" captures the triumph and tragedy of two giants of railroad lore preserved in folk songs (and, hence, a folk singer occupies the center.) In the foreground John Henry besting a steam hammer, on the left, then collapsing from a burst heart; on the right, and in the background, the record-setting Casey Jones' locomotive, on the left, and its deadly crash on the right.
Paintings in both of these distinct collections invite viewers to search, explore and question what they see in each - but in a light-hearted way. "I want the reflection of my work to be engaging, not challenging," says Hill. "Just as a written work can depend on visual imagery to do the heavy lifting, painted images can lean on the literal - thought and language - to carry it's meaning. Thus, in making the title itself integral to the experience and using cognitive rather than visual devices to knit together the individual 'portraits' (Iconographies) or narrative elements (Stories,) I played at blurring the boundary between the literal and the visual - but just a little."
Richard Hill took up painting in earnest four years ago, upon retiring from successful careers as a lawyer and nonprofit financial specialist. Although he has had no formal training in art, he is quick to mention that he learned much about making art by observing his artist mother working while growing up. "It would be incorrect to say that I am self-taught, because I had eighteen watchful years at her side." "After a lifetime of dabbling ... I'm eager to learn what develops when modest talent mixes with a whole lot of free time."
View additional images on Richard Hill's website.