LAWRENCE KELSEY: An American in Paris
"Forget the news, a Paris reverie awaits at gallery show." By James Reid.
November 21, 2014.
All ages have their vicissitudes, but in our era, exposure to instantaneous information has a profoundly negative impact. It is thus an authentic delight to encounter, as I did by chance while passing the display window at Madelyn Jordon Fine Art Gallery, in Scarsdale, the lyrically exuberant, beautifully executed and dramatically evocative oil paintings of Paris by Lawrence Kelsey.
It was the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, who insightfully observed that "a walk through Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and the point (i.e., purpose) of life". This is precisely what Kelsey's selection of motifs, rich brushwork and opulent colors so vividly accomplish, as his paintings evoke so successfully the aestheic splendor of this "city of light".
It is a genuine joy to follow him as he takes us through Parisian archetectural marvels, the bucolic enchancement of the Luxemburg Gardens, and along the vistas of the river Seine. The application of paint combines passion and delicate sensitivity, and the final results are intensely lyrical. The visual and humanist impacts are immediate, as is the realization that representational art can remain strongly appealing in a contemporary art world, where all too often sheer experimental innovations are the prime criterion of artistic merit.
What Kelsey's painting accomplishes is a 'reinvention' of French Impressionism, albeit with a penchant for his geometric structures which in some cases border on abstraction. His charachteristic Parisian Motifs -- whether river views of Notre Dame, the Musee d' Orsay or the Louvre -- are selected with a true artist's vision. Subtle variations of light, season and atmosphere range from autumnal afternoon scenes to days of summer sunlight and tranquil scenes of sunset. The viewer is reminded not only of the majesty of a unique city, but of the eternal grandeur of human creativity, inevitably contemplates these glowing works with delight.
For those of us who have studied and worked in Paris, the paintings have a very special additional meaning, as Ernest Hemingway understood only too well. "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man," he observed, "then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." The German philosopher Frederick Nietche was even more explict, noting "an artist has no home, exept in Paris." As for America's 20th century Julia Child, she expressed her feelings with unequivocal enthusiasm: "France was my spiritual homeland. It had become a part of me and I a part of it, and so it has remained ever since."
Kelsey has been motivated by the same inspiration. His 20 oil paintings, on display through Dec. 6, represent his 7th solo exhibition at Madelyn Jordon Fine Art Gallery. They are his first exhibition of Parisian themes, since his emphasis after graduation in 1973 from New York's Art Student's League was to depict the multifaceted attractions of New York's urban milieau and park views. These new Parisian paintings conveying visual pleasure, aesthetic excitement and tranquil enjoyment, remind us how right Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman were, in the final line of Casablanca, "We will always have Paris."