Tom Judd : Manifest Destiny


Tom Judd : Manifest Destiny
May 23 – Jul 12, 2014

In his second Robischon Gallery solo exhibition, Philadelphia artist Tom Judd combines his collagist sensibility with an expressionistic mark to tell tales of the landscape in “Manifest Destiny”.  Balancing a love of paint and process with a desire to carry a message of the fragility and mystery of life, Judd’s visual poems are intimate and intuitive.   The large scale canvases of distant valleys, mountains and vast lakes – are primarily approached with a nearly forgotten palette of greyed browns and black to convey their all but muted worlds.  Judd writes, “Although these paintings are done in a limited palette, I don't think of them as dark, but only slightly melancholy and even romantic. Most of the images come from 19th century photographs of the west from the likes of Carleton Watkins and Timothy O’Sullivan. I have always been moved by these pictures. They occur much like the pictures of Mars from the lonely Mars-rover. They capture a raw, dangerously beautiful world, unforgiving and pointless. Before freeways and shopping malls, there was this pristine, breathtaking view.”

Judd ignites the memory of such terrain with an occasional insistence of color in the landscape in the form of pale green or yellow or an unpredictable patch of coral.  The handling of the paint becomes its own discovery; thinly or thickly applied, dripped or layered in some instances, so as to pin an actual patterned cloth surrounding a painted vista.  Each element of color, drawn mark, or found material is positioned to reveal a little more of the story – one from the past that can never be fully known, but perhaps understood in abstraction.  In Judd’s hands, the history of place can be better told with a brush stroke – a tree is never depicted, rather, the attitude with which it was painted stands for something. As well, the presence of the airplane in the exhibition begins and ends the tale – as it is a clear symbol of quest and discovery.   The artist states, “I think these paintings are like hymns for a mysterious American landscape that we have steadfastly conquered. We have embedded ourselves – helping ourselves to the bounty of the land.”

Layered, scraped, brushed or found, each technique employed by Tom Judd to create is not unlike an archeologist at a dig.  For the artist, it is always about the pure intent to discover and the process of questioning that pursuit at every turn - which for the viewer is what makes each mark made, so absorbing.            

Tom Judd studied painting at the University of Utah and the Philadelphia College of Art. He was a Pollack Krasner recipient and received fellowships to the respected Millay Colony for the Arts and highly regarded Macdowell Colony. His work is regularly exhibited in numerous galleries across the US and is in the collections of Philadelphia Museum of Art, Birmingham Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts including many corporate and private collections.