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Taos artist sweeps from abstract to iPad art

TAOS – Jonathan Sobol’s art crosses borderlines, genres and mediums in a hybrid of control and abandon.

“Leah” is a painting by Jonathan Sobol that is part of his show at the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House.

“Leah” is a painting by Jonathan Sobol that is part of his show at the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House.

A Taos resident for 30 years, Sobol’s work sweeps from abstraction to representationalism before dipping into video-game art through his current iPad paintings.

“Jonathan Sobol Thirty in Thirty: Thirty Paintings from Thirty Years in Taos” is a retrospective of his life in art at the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House.

The exhibition will continue through Jan. 2.

Sobol grew up in the artist colony of Safed in the Galilee, Israel. His mother was an artist who introduced him to oil painting when he was 6.

He has worked as a professional artist for 39 years, absorbing a galaxy of influences from portraitists, sculptors and classical painters to Fauvists, Impressionists, Modernists, Abstract Expressionists and the Russian avant-garde.

“To me, there are no manifestos,” Sobol said. “To me, it’s all about the visual experience. Art comes from your eyes to your gut.”

He cites Nicolai Fechin, whose home houses the art museum, as a personal inspiration. Considered one of the finest portrait painters of the 20th century, Fechin came to Taos in 1927 and rented an apartment from salon maven Mabel Dodge Luhan.

“What I’ve been after is what I find at Fechin House,” Sobol said. “Fechin had the unique capacity to find abandon and control in his painting. I’ve never seen another artist with that particular skill.”

Sobol’s 2015 iPad painting “Cooper, Glass and Paint” resembles the meticulous realism of the Northern Renaissance.

“It’s one of my more traditional paintings,” he said. “It’s a still life I set up in my studio. There’s a lot of painting apps you get. Then you paint with a finger or a stylus. It’s just so intriguing. It’s immediate.”

The iPad paintings are dye sublimation images printed into the surface of a solid sheet of aluminum with fidelity to the original digital image.

Sobol’s “Taos Red Willow” is part of his “Portal” oil series.

“They are very big and very textural,” he said. “There are multiple levels of how a viewer can relate to it. As you approach it and get up close, it’s purely about the joy of painting.

“I always think it’s a miracle that two people can agree on anything,” he continued. “We see color very differently. We see light very differently. To me, it’s about the multiple capacities of different people.”

A painting by Jonathan Sobol.

A painting by Jonathan Sobol.

The 1984 oil on canvas portrait is a tender rendering of his wife “Leah.”

“That’s one of the first paintings I did when I first came to Taos,” Sobol said. “She’s in my studio in our first house there.”

Today this peripatetic artist has returned to oils.

“I see painting like music,” he said. “We feel music. It touches the emotions so directly. Nobody bats an eye if a classical musician plays jazz. To me, painting is exactly the same. So I have several genres in my toolbox.”

He came to Taos 30 years ago.