Dick Jemison

Dick Jemison

(1942 - )


The Abstract Expressionist aesthetic which challenged and excited the young Dick Jemison was being shaped at the time by the major painters of the New York School: Willem De Kooning, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Jemison came to understand that in these paintings the picture plane was conceived as a flat canvas wall. The canvas became an “arena,” a “field of action” where smudged or dripping paint floated; where the intuitive or spontaneous gesture of the paint-loaded brush interacted with all the other surface marks. 

Jemison’s canvases focus on working the surface. Micaceous clay used in Pueblo pottery combines with textiles reminiscent of the Great Plains culture. The marks are a kind of graphic script like a rudimentary, fragmented voice seeking to be understood, like primitive scrapings of lines or figures on cave walls. 

In Dreamworks, Dick Jemison’s most recent series, the same graphic elements, now more articulate, appear and disappear. The format of each painting is like a rising wall, a block of flat painting that is experienced against the expanse of canvas. The metaphor of the painting resides in the complex relationship each “hieroglyph” presents to its surrounding neighbors and to the composition as a whole. 

The final arbiter and unifying force of Dick Jemison’s paintings is color. Jemison’s palette bonds all of his painterly impulses through the dominance of a rich, earth-orange tone that warms and makes luminous the shapes within the structure. It is that burnt-orange/sienna range of color that localizes the paintings, informing them with the hues of the New Mexico landscape and adobe architecture, and at the same time realizes them as universal potentials of the Earth. These are the same rich tones of the ochre hills and deserts of the Southwest. 

In Jemison's sculptures, the vertical totem, the form enclosed completely within the volume of a standing tree trunk, is carved and hand-smoothed into freely-invented "ancestor" forms. Their outer surfaces are then polychromed with a dazzling array of patterned divisions in primary and complementary hues. Thick with constellation-like dots and cross-hatchings, they sing of the indigenous cultures known intimately by the artist from his world-wide travels. The painted surfaces of these sculptures are not so much ‘Aboriginal” as they are an homage to the aboriginal spirit, a design inspired by and interpreted through the eye of a sophisticated modern artist. 


American Television Communications, Denver, Colorado 
Anderson Industries, Inc., Rockford, Illinois 
AT&T, Denver, Colorado 
Baptist Hospital Conference Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama 
The Charter, Beaver Creek, Vail, Colorado Consolidated Capital Companies, San Francisco, California 
Denver National Bank, Denver, Colorado 
E.F. Hutton, New York, New York 
Goldman, Sachs, New York, New York 
Head Corporation, Baltimore, Maryland 
IBM, Birmingham, Alabama 
Jemison Investment Company, Birmingham, Alabama 
Montgomery Museum of Art, Montgomery, Alabama 
Prudential-Bache, New York, New York  


Read More