In a 1922 essay, “Intuition and Expression”, the philosopher Benedetto Croce wrote: “The intuition is truly artistic, it is truly intuitive, and not a chaotic mass of images, only when it has a vital principle that animates it, making it all one with itself. Artistic intuition is always lyrical intuition. Intuitive activity possesses intuition to the extent that it expresses them.” This is the essence of the art of Richard Lazzaro.
RICHARD LAZZARO has been a prominent advocate for abstract painting for fifty-nine years as an artist and teacher. During his long career his work has been included in several invitational exhibitions in museums, art centers and galleries throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia and South America and is represented in more than 400 private, corporate, public and museum collections in the United States, Canada, China, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Taiwan and Ukraine.
Lazzaro's early works between 1955 and 1958 were efforts to test his sensibilities and discover feelings about himself and his relationship to the world. His paintings were mostly figurative and emulated the color of Renaissance painting and the stylization of forms found in the later works of Francisco Goya. At this time, he was dedicated to an expression that embraced feelings directly connected to human experience. His content revealed a preoccupation with themes of destiny and death, the unsettling conflict of humanity. While his subjects were morose and pessimistic, his painting style was colorful and beautiful in surface and performance. His palette also reflected the grayish-brown-yellow color he saw in Cleveland with a subdued light quality resulting from the strong overcast drifting in from Lake Erie.
Painting in the sunlight of Mexico during the summer of 1958, Lazzaro expanded his use of color to a brighter, lighter palette. He made many paintings and drawings in the fields, streets and marketplaces of vendors selling chickens and flowers, food stands, colorful tents and awnings, people sitting and walking in the plazas, herders seated along the hillsides, and farmers working the land. The intensity of the light and how the subjects fused with the backgrounds due to the bright sunlight fascinated him. In his work he combined elements of the figure interspersed with abstract shapes and patterns derived from the landscape and marketplace. His arrangement of defused forms suggested both an in and out and side to side movements to achieve an all-over visual activity. He wanted to capture the vitality of life and the interaction of man with the environment. His experience in Mexico had awakened optimism about life, his art and the future. Lurking within his work was a structure of abstraction waiting to emerge.
Over the years his experimentation in painting moved away from the reference of the visible world to an exploration of flat space, movement, color, direct painting and the use of nonspecific imagery. His vigorous and lyrical expression evokes a vitality of spirit and life movement. The artist’s process creates a force sending off energy in different directions. With every mark he creates a new tension set up until the completed ideographs become the “equilibrium of interacting forces”. In his abstraction, color, rhythm and relationship of parts cannot be separated; every brush stroke is part of the design, the spirit which creates the part motivates the whole. “I do not want a painting to be a static object but be a dynamic field of energy and activity where the eye of the observer is kept busy following the hand of the artist.”
Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1937, Richard Lazzaro studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art (1955-59), Kent State University (BFA, 1961), and the University of Illinois (MFA, 1963). He taught at the University of Illinois from 1961-63 and is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he taught drawing and painting from 1963 – 2001 and served as Graduate Program Chair and 2-D Area Chair during his tenure. Over the years he taught painting at all levels and worked with students in various media. He also taught life drawing, intermediate and basic drawing and graduate seminar. Many of his students have gone on to have successful careers in the arts as well as in education - a few are in contemporary art history books, and many are in museum collections. He continues to be in contact with several who have great admiration for Richard’s contribution to their lives.
He has lived in Mexico, New York City, Paris, London, Malaga (Spain) and while living in Florence, Italy he met Giovanna Semintendi and they were married in 1960 in the Republic of San Marino. He resides in Stoughton, Wisconsin where he and Giovanna owned and operated a contemporary art gallery, the Lazzaro Signature Gallery of Fine Art from 1985 to 2008, showing the art of prominent artists from the U.S. and abroad.
In the book, “Richard Lazzaro: the Development of His Work”, he wrote, “I recall the passionate teachings and humanist concerns that were so eloquently discussed by my mentors about painting becoming a religious act, an act of faith, a spiritual revolution. I was inspired by the notion that painting is and has been a conception of the world, the very image of the eternal conflict between being and non-being, good and evil. These precepts have remained a strong part of my sensibility. I want passion to be a part of the work, and have my work be an expression of experience not solely of aesthetics. In meeting the influential Italian painter, Emilio Vedova, I remember him emphatically exclaiming, ‘It was not the primary forces of the cosmos that fuse and explode in the paintings, but the deep impulses of the human soul.’ I was impressed.”