J. Steven Manolis, Black and White (Splashes, Symbols, and Marks), Acrylic on canvas, 2018, 60 x 72 inches
“Indeed, Manolis’ color-saturated abstractions breathe fresh life–fresh feeling–into abstract expressionism… He’s a modern master…”
— Donald Kuspit
Donald Kuspit was the winner of the prestigious Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism (1983) given by the College Art Association and is a Contributing Editor at Artforum,Artnet Magazine, Sculpture and Tema Celeste, and the editor of Art Criticism. He has doctorates in philosophy and art history, as well as degrees from Columbia, Yale and Pennsylvania State University. He has received fellowships from Fulbright Commission, NEA, Guggenheim Foundation and Asian Cultural Council, among others. Kuspit has written more than twenty books, including The End of Art (2004); Redeeming Art: Critical Reveries (2000); Idiosyncratic Identities: Artists at the End of the Avant-Garde (1996); Daniel Brush: Gold without Boundaries (with Ralph Esmerian and David Bennett, 1998); Reflections of Nature: Paintings by Joseph Raffael (with Amei Wallace, 1998); and Chihuly (1998). He has written numerous art reviews, including critiques on Hunt Slonem, Maurizio Cattelan and April Gornik.
I have a tradition or call it a superstition; each year since 2014, the first Series and first work that I always finish is a B&W! My other self-imposed requirement is to create a “unique B&W Series style for that calendar year” that correlates to where my mind set and art career is at the time. It’s a unique interpretation of myself at that moment in time. I explore this all year long as my own form of self analysis.
Thus, each painting year, my B&W work has a descriptive sub-series name: 2014: Hurricane; 2015: Symphony; 2016: My Long March Journey (MLMJ); 2017: More-is-More & Less-is-More (MMLM) ; and now in 2018: Splashes, Symbols & Marks (SSM).
The thinking behind my 2018 Series is this: over the last three years I have derived and used Splashes, Symbols & Marks extensively in most of my works. Not only are they attractive (artist’s claim!), but through the “repetition method” these marks (and the way I apply and place them) have become my unique artistic signature that defines and distinguishes ME as an Abstract Expressionist artist. I love the abstraction of colors and symbols in their endless array of possibilities and what they mean to me.
Every artist’s dream is to have the visual image of his work become his signature. If you think about the world’s most distinguished artists that is an attribute that EVERY highly accomplished artist achieves. When you look at a Picasso you know it’s a Picasso and from which period. His style is his signature, just as much as his written name on the canvas. I feel I have quickly achieved my own signature style. As an aside, for other artists reading this, interestingly, it was never “a forethought” to be this way, but rather a “result of painting my mind and soul prolifically” that helped me find my own signature style.
Another thought is also ever present: my desire to professionally excel, push boundaries, and set new “Communicating-Through-Color,” and abstract painting standards.
BLACK & WHITE
Remember, please, that I consider Black & White a color in and of itself, and one of my three major painting categories. These three are Colorific(many colors), Monochromatic, and Black & White; and, ALL my painting work falls into these three major categories .
My first B&W 2018 work is composed of 1) a portfolio of my signature Splashes, Symbols and Marks, while 2) attempting to maximize the remaining white space on the canvas. On a micro basis, the work has two great upward pointing splashes (I find them uplifting), numerous concentrics (my symbols for social focus and total non-discrimination), chevals (Family oriented) , loops (universes of data), globes (defined subsets of mega-data) and my usual “JSM flotsam and jetsam”. More or less these Splashes, Symbols & Marks are present in all my works, no matter what Series and comprise the detail of what is me as an artist. However, each year’s B&W paintings have a different feel, a different energy.
Another attribute that warrants mentioning is that I always attempt, no matter how simple or complex, or how symmetric or asymmetric the work… to achieve “Visual Balance” in every painting… meaning that if you put a color pin in the exact bottom of the middle of the painting it would perfectly color BALANCE and not move at all (allegorically think of the old time scales, with weights in one bin and commodities (sugar, flour, salt) sold in the other bin, loaded until the exact balance is achieved by weight.
This new 2018 painting achieves this esthetic balance, despite total colorfield asymmetry. I hope when you see this work you can recognize with 100% certainty, “Oh, that’s a J.Steven Manolis,” …and moreover for expert followers, “It was painted in 2018, because that is the year he did B&W’s in the form of: Splashes, Symbols & Marks.”