Romantic landscape and figurative artist Leo Neufeld approaches life and art with deep felt passion and exuberance in an era too often plagued by cynicism.
Neufeld’s solo exhibition titled “Palette of My Life” at DSG Fine Art celebrates the vulnerability of humanity and the power of nature to excite and heal the soul.
My first encounter with Neufeld’s talent goes back more than 20 years during a visit to one of the Harwood Art Center’s Open Studios events. As I wandered northward down the hall I noticed a collection of classically rendered figure sketches that were arranged like Gretel’s bread crumbs leading to Neufeld’s studio.
Don’t worry folks he’s not a warlock but Neufeld’s paintings are often bewitching as well as beguiling.
For me it was a journey back in time to when I studied the academic arts in Baltimore long before beauty became the unspoken B-word.
In all of his work Neufeld hopes to achieve a state of grace wherein can be discovered biographical affirmation of his existence. When he paints people they tend to be close friends, lovers or iconic characters who affirm both Shakespeare and Neufeld’s view of the world as a stage on which we all play our roles in the human tragic/comedy.
When Neufeld paints the landscape he searches for the dramatic violence of the rock strewn sea coast of Big Sur juxtaposed to the quietude of a high mountain meadow.
For Neufeld the human world is an overwhelming wealth of visual stimulation from a socially shunned urban street urchin or manual laborer to the goddess in every woman, his art emerges from natural chaos to give his viewers a structured respite from the din.
In Neufeld’s “Toad – Waver” the central portrait of a land working man is painted within a widow frame through which can be seen a farm patch behind the figure. Neufeld amplifies the window on the world theme with a window frame replica picture frame.
The overall effect muddies the distinction between two and three dimensional space.
For the past few years Neufeld has been visiting a spiritual retreat on the California coast where he works on plein air landscapes. What began as a vacation from the high desert has evolved into a reformation of Neufeld’s landscape style.
When he began moving back and forth between figures and landscapes many years ago Neufeld relied on 19th century impressionism tempered with the often color subduing effects of Maroger’s medium.
Once ensconced on the coast Neufeld recognized the high energy and violence of the roiling sea and slowly shifted toward an expressionist’s palette and brushwork. His Pacific Ocean studies are rendered in the joyful abandon of roaring waves drenched in sunlight now tempered with a modicum of mayhem.
His “New Energy” is painted from a bird’s eye perspective looking onto the rocks and water intercourse at shoreline. The “action painting” style brushwork from the coastal paintings also finds its way into the sky above “The Path – New Mexico” a sunny day rendering of our local surround.
One of my favorite coastal paintings is Neufeld’s “Cypress Tree (John Denver)” a nicely composed view of one forefront cypress among several trees bending eastward away from the west borne incessant will of wind and wave.
Did I mention that this guy can paint? There are several clothed and nude figures in the show that prove Neufeld’s mastery of the classical tenets regarding figure painting.
A new book by painter Michael J. Pearce titled “Art in the Age of Emergence” chronicles why artists like Neufeld, whose idealism survived modernism and post-modernism, are making an important contribution to the humanities.
Pearce argues that we need believable idealism when all hell is apparently breaking lose. Compassionate sensitivity is a powerful weapon against nihilistic tendencies that crop up during trying times. It’s a good book and Neufeld has an excellent show.