Visitors to The Grace Museum this fall should prepare to be wowed by larger-than-life paintings they will encounter in the main gallery. The museum’s newest featured art exhibition (which opened Oct. 14) is a solo show of recent paintings by Paul Manes, a respected painter whose work has been exhibited across Texas, California, New York, and throughout Europe.
Manes could be described as a real painter’s painter. His 21st century oil paintings draw inspiration from works by “old masters” such as Rembrandt, Velasquez and Goya, as well as famous 20th Century abstract expressionists Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns. As a mature artist, Manes has developed a hallmark fluidity of style that is indeed his own, focusing on surface, scale, space, light and form. His subjects vary from raindrops, roots and logs to cascading bowls, landscapes and aircraft. Subtle clues to the underlying vision for each painting can be found in their titles, often ripe with philosophical innuendo and references.
• Eimi is the title of E. E. Cummings’ 1933 travelogue of Russia, depicted as glistening lights hovering over a black gorge-like landscape.
• Harem focuses on the veil of mystery that shrouds the captives of desire.
• Abatis is a formidable homage to the ancient battlefield defense blockade formed by felled trees with sharpened branches facing the enemy.
• For the ancient Greeks, Animus Mundi is the world soul, an ethereal spirt sheltered in nature and nurtured by lifegiving rain.
• A monumental tangle of roots titled Olvidar, Spanish for “to forget or to cease remembering,” questions our understanding of all things lost, suppressed or ignored.
Holding all of these themes together is Manes’ brilliant painting style and an ability to forge many divergent ideas into one powerful conversation. Viewers are immediately dazzled by his surface treatment and the large scale of his work, but that’s just the beginning. The paint itself radiates an underlying energy that asks us to see more, to feel more, and to dive deeper into the philosophical and personal challenges of our common human experience.
This isn’t the first time Manes has exhibited at The Grace. One of his large bowl paintings, The Abyss, was featured at the museum in a 2013 group exhibition, Suitable Subjects: Contemporary Still Lifes, a show which focused on innovative approaches to the enduring subject of still lifes by 30 different contemporary artists.
Of course, much has happened at home and abroad over the past nine years. It is both reassuring and inspiring to take a closer look at the power of art by this accomplished artist to provide a gateway that affirms the past, while simultaneously embracing the unknowable outcome of tomorrow.
A native of Austin, Manes currently lives and works in Carbondale, CO. He is represented by Cris Worley Fine Arts in Dallas.
Paul Manes: Odyssey is on view at The Grace Museum Oct. 14 through April 1, 2023.
Contributed by The Grace Museum