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American Studies

The Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA) is pleased to announce the presentation of the exhibition American Studies by Richard Sober, opening on Friday, September 8, 2017, with a public reception 5-7pm in the Cinematheque Lobby. The exhibition is on view September 8 through November 5, 2017.

Santa Fe-based artist Richard Sober has intentionally remained on the edges of the art world for almost fifty years, quietly painting and examining the remarkable details in unremarkable places. Sober grew up in an urban-working-class family with a strong work ethic and complicated societal expectations that were instilled in him from a young age. Sober adopted his parents’ work ethic but approached their expectations from a point of observation rather than participation, giving him an awareness of a working-class perspective that continues to inform his painting career and current project, American Studies.

Sober has exhibited his work nationally and internationally since 1979.  Among the venues he has shown are the Casa de Cultura in Estepona, Spain, Gallerie Rive Gauche in Paris, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Zeitgeist Gallery in Cambridge, Ma., the Right Bank in Brooklyn,  Cruz Gallery in Santa Fe, Gallery Black Lagoon in Austin, the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, and Hudson River Gallery in Iowa City. He has given numerous poetry readings in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Iowa City, Santa Fe, Austin, and Boulder.  Among other publications, he is the author of Adjusting to the Light (2012), a book containing images of his paintings and prose poems.

The thirty-two paintings in this exhibition, American Studies, are just that, selected studies of what Sober observed while passing through space, mostly on foot. The scenes are both familiar and surprising, depicting details that most pass by without notice. Sober makes a point to linger on these unappreciated details and draw them out in his small painterly oil-sketches.

Sober states, “These paintings are distillations of visual experience. They are small and can be held in your hands. They are attempts at responding to the larger world and dragging them into a space sometimes the size of a book. Though one can say my paintings are representational, they are also by the nature of their two-dimensionality, abstracted from a reality whose solidity is always under question.”  

The paintings in this show travel from the East Coast into South Dakota – some contain prose poems, undermining or informing the visual imagery. A shadow in a corner of a house, a glimpse of a decaying barn, the sky revealed between two buildings, a woman standing against a car in the high desert, an eroded landscape far from the noise of the city. These are just a few of the new and selected images presented in Sober’s on-going body of work that study the seemingly mundane life along the American road.

“The act of seeing is never finished, hence, the almost rough tentative nature of some of this work. I walk around a place as if a story were about to be told or someone just walked away from a world rapidly changing, only to round another corner into a place of becoming and doubt. There are houses and landscapes prohibited to us, places that can never fully be entered, though one never stops wondering who or what is inside.” – Richard Sober