Donald A. Kerr Figurative Abstract Painting

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Donald A. Kerr Figurative Abstract Painting

3,900.00

Donald A. Kerr (American, 20th century), "Seesaw," 1960, oil on canvas.
Artist signed lower right; museum label with artist name and title affixed verso, 
Deaccessioned from the Nevada Museum of Art, E.L. Wiegand Gallery, Reno, Nevada; Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Elmer and Mary Rusco.
Education: MFA Ohio State University.
Teaching post at the University of Nevada, Reno Art Department.  There, Kerr developed the “Flash Lab,” an innovative approach to art instruction.  As Keer describes in his curriculum statement:
“The "Flash Lab" method of teaching the elementary fundamentals of drawing, a system based on the psychology of perception, the behavioral sciences, and the biological sciences, was developed to help correct common errors which beginning students make, such as inability to generalize, lack of proportional relationships, miss-judgement due to depth, poor brightness discrimination, and little sense of unity or composition.”
Kerr’s focus on formalistic issues in art production and instruction appear in his own work which explicitly addresses the picture plane and illusion of depth with an exploration of that most three dimensional of subjects-the seesaw.  
The figures animating this literal balancing act are rendered faceless and apart from the space occupied by viewer.  Instead they are absorbed in the illusory depth of spacial representation.  
Kerr complicates this illusory space by placing his characters nearly outside the margins of the work.  The female figure is barely contained by the frame: her formalized striped shirt and relatively precarious position on see-saw take precedence over corporal or personal details.  Her companion, arbitrarily sliced in half and mostly out of view, is reduced to an anonymous counterweight.  
This half rendered figure accounts for our main figure’s position on the canvas but by virtue of being lifted out of our story serves as a stand in for the artist who produces the work but cannot be in the work thereby suturing art production into art representation.  
To add to the layers of ambiguity and substitution there is the more fully realized and visible figure to the right of our mystery counter-weight figure. This more fully stated figure serves as an emotional anchor what with our literal anchor having been excised from composition.
Both figures,however-though more expressed and more fully contained-stare past each other.  Their gaze, in both instances drive past our gaze and past one another’s.  The only thing binding individual entities is the gravity of our see-saw and the undifferentiated green space in which they sit.  
In opposition to this formalistic destruction of personal detail and story is a characteristically twentieth century concern for the representation of that peculiarly modern solitary figure so favored by Bay Area artists like Oliver and Diebenkorn.
But, unlike so many of the bay area figurative artists, Kerr does not engage the viewer with a direct gaze.  Instead there is a kind of robotic disengagement which threatens our identification with story or even with the scene. 
To counter the extreme level of depersonalized formalism, Kerr offers a masterful handling of color and light with Wayne Thiebaud like flourishes of resonant hues and a loose, relatively informal handling of anatomy similar to David Park’s expressionistic figures. 
Though based in Nevada, Kerr’s work-to a remarkable degree-shows kinship with the Bay Area art scene.  He offers collectors, familiar with the bay area figurative legacy, an interesting alternative vision combined with a number of stylistic parallels.
47"h x 61"w

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