Saturday, August 27, 2005

Reichek Retrospective

I went out, today, to the Marin French Cheese Company outside of Petaluma to see the opening of Jesse Reichek's Retrospective. I had been invited by a friend, John Bertucci, and after having reviewed some of Reichek's paintings on the Retrospective web site, I wanted to see these 9' high by 6' wide acrylic paintings.

The drive out "D" Street from Petaluma towards the west took my wife and me through some of the beautiful open dairy farms of Sonoma County. We passed my favorite tree; an oak growing beside a granite menhir. We passed cow-studded rolling hills whose valleys nourish swaths of live oaks. And just past the turn that would take us south to Stafford Lake and Novato, just past the fire station, there on the right was the familiar pond and picnic area of the Cheese Company.

We arrived at 4pm. The food and band (Peter Welker) were still getting prepared. We walked over to the old warehouse that had been renovated to hold the show. It was hot and sunny outside, so for a second or two, until my eyes adjusted, all I could see was how large the space was. Looking to the left, down the side of the warehouse, the paintings seemed to go on into infinity.

Each painting, representing one of the 64 combinations of the "I Ching", looked like a giant digital scan card. The whole room, containing some 50 paintings, seemed like the memory array from a computer chip, remembering something important, something fundamental, something recognizable, yet undecipherable.

The paintings themselves seemed devoid of emotion, but full of meaning, like a giant intellectual discourse which stimulated knowledge by imagination beyond experience. I was amused at the irony of the artist's choice of the I Ching as a subject for creativity. The I Ching leads one's introspection by seeding thought with a random number, not unlike a random number generator in a computer program. I was reminded of the role of ambiguity in the creative process. As I walked around the paintings, I could only imagine what strange and exciting places I might discover in an attempt to decode these wonderful images.

After walking through the show, we sat and watched a flat-screen display of samples of Reichek's other works, all large paintings done in batches with names like Kabbalah, Creation, Death, and Song of Songs.

Outside again, we enjoyed a glass of wine, cheese, tomales, and humus. We talked with some of the people who had known the artist from Berkeley. We left soon after the artist's wife, Laure, gave a short speech about her husband (who had died earlier this year) and the people who made this exhibit possible. On our way out, we bought some brie and breakfast cheese at the cheese shop.

As I drove home, a smile crept over my face. I looked forward to the next year's worth of changing exhibits as the warehouse showcases the artist's life work of almost 3,000 paintings.

August 27, 2005