Henry Finkelstein is a contemporary painter who has been represented by and shown at the Valley House Gallery for the past decade. He is also a faculty member at the Art Students League and National Academy of Design, both in New York City. His "Exhibition of Recent Work" is hanging now through June 4.
If you've never visited the Valley House Gallery in north Dallas, you've missed one of the city's gems. Not only does the Gallery have exceptional and frequently - changing shows but the sculpture garden with its pond and gorgeous blooms is a unique space without rival in town. Visit any season of the year and you won't be disappointed. In addition, the Valley House staff is extraordinarily friendly and knowledgeable whether you want to talk with them about the art or just enjoy the show on your own.
Walk into the first room at the gallery and Finkelstein's large colorful paintings take your breath away. They are large – at least 4 feet on a side – and they are bold.
The first word that came to my mind is "Fauvism" - and that's an art movement I hadn't given any thought to in decades. You'll recall that in the first decade of the 20th Century, Henri Matisse and Andre Derain and others put together a scant three shows that earned them the title "les Fauvres" - the wild beasts. Influenced by predecessors Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin (especially hisTahiti paintings), the Fauvists' work was characterized by strident saturated colors, wild rhythmic brushwork, and simplified abstracted shapes. While the Impressionists, Post Impressionists, and Pointillists relied upon the viewer’s eye to blend color, Fauvists suspended blending altogether and distilled color down to its more basic element. Fauvism gave rise to Expressionism, which birthed the Abstract Expressionism movement – thereby spanning over half the 20th Century.
Gauguin is said to have once remarked, "How do you see these trees? They are yellow. So, put in yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine; these red leaves? Put in vermillion." And that's how the Fauvists - and Finkelstein - paint.
There is no subtlety to the way Finkelstein lays paint on his canvas. In particular, his landscapes are done is furious brushstrokes, using paint straight out of the tube. Alizarin crimson, mars black, cadmium yellow, ultramarine blue all make a prominent showing in the work. Finkelstein is painting a moment, not a portrait. He makes no attempt even to cover the canvas; rather, he is capturing a snapshot in a mad rush before the moment passes.
While I like his landscapes, I really love his still life pictures. Here he builds up greater thicknesses of paint and the brushstrokes, while still very bold, are quieter than in his outdoor pictures. This blue dresser with white pottery is a frequent subject - a study in calmer, cooler colors.
My very favorite painting of the entire show is this yellow still life. Yellow, black, and gray; a creamy white and a couple of pops of brilliant green - this is the kind of art you could live with for a lifetime and never get tired of looking at. Finkelstein breaks with tradition and paints the focal point – a marble bust – smack dab in the center of the painting.
When you take in a room of Finkelstein paintings, the enthusiastic color and the energy make you smile. How happy and optimistic these pictures are! How lucky the collector who can surround herself with them!
Do take in the Finkelstein show before June 4 and leave yourself time to stroll around the sculpture garden while you are there. Valley House Gallery will become one of your favorite places to see art – it has become mine.