Richard Dupont: Islands

Richard Dupont


April 15 — June 30, 2021

Richard Dupont travelled to Maine in the summer of 2020 with his family in search of perspective and time to reflect. By chance, he rented a vacant boat house by the water and promptly set up a space to work with what limited resources he’d brought from his studio in Yonkers, New York.

Unable to transport the large-scale molds and dense materials essential to his practice as a sculptor, Dupont made a surprising shift toward working with watercolor pigment on paper. While drawing and printmaking have always been essential aspects of his work, this new direction allowed for a more improvisational approach.

“With everything that's happened this past year… I wanted to kind of just go in as though I hadn't ever made anything before.”

Dupont’s broader practice examines the social implications of 21st century digital technology, but also draws from aesthetic and conceptual aspects of Classical, Archaic and Modernist art. He considers drawing to be a parallel activity to his sculptural practice, which often involves making sculptures using laser scanning or 3D printing processes.

Dupont's Yonkers studio.

The process of drawing serves a deeply important purpose for Dupont, who views the act as a free zone for expression and a playground for discovering new ideas. Though the end result may not always be integrated into his oeuvre in a direct way, this practice greatly influences how primary bodies of work will develop.

“When you start involving the hand in something, it has a kind of logic of its own and it takes you wherever it's going to take you. That's not always the case when you're spending six months making a huge sculpture. It's hard to have intuition and chance enter into that kind of more mediated rigorous, long-term process.”

The watercolors that Dupont began making in Maine, however, hold their own as complete works that convey both a rich history of landscape painting and a personal expression of the artist. The closeness of the hand to paper, guided by intuition and responsive to the will of the water sparked an internal exploration of the self and inspired a sense of possibility.

This new body of work, titled ISLANDS, was inspired by traditional Chinese and Japanese ink drawings of landscapes. The “water and ink” style began in China at the end of the Tong dynasty as early as the year 907. Initially, the subject of landscape functioned as an outlet for civilization to rediscover communion with nature, after facing the uncertainty of a crumbling government. While in Maine, Dupont was surrounded by the deep water and vast skies which prompted a meditation on the metaphors found in his surroundings, and what these spaces of reflection mean to human beings in a time like ours.

The ink drawing technique was brought to Japan by Zen Buddhists in the 14th century, where they developed a more pared down style, focusing on bold, black ink strokes and washes that distilled the imagery of landscape down to its essence.

The first watercolor works on paper that Dupont made were in greyscale, and echoed this same emphasis of the mark while creating opportunities for the water to express its character on the page. The subject of the island landscape is only hinted at in the horizon line, interrupted by a singular mark, or in the bright white circle that hovers over it like the sun in the sky.

The word for blue did not exist in most early languages, including ancient Greek and English. It has been hypothesized among many scientists that because blue is a pigment so rarely found in nature, that it may not have been visible to early human life. It wasn’t until the ancient Egyptians discovered a way to extract the pigment from Lapis that it became utilized for artistic practices, and thus the word for blue was invented. In the English language, it was the last color family to be given a global name after white, black, red, then yellow and green.

In Dupont’s watercolors, the color blue plays a significant role in expressing a “watery sensibility” inherent in the medium, as well as in association to the more literal elements of nature that make the island landscape. However, the color blue and all of its various tones and shades also has a profound ability to express the nuance of emotion, and the limitless bounds of the spiritual. Yves Klein, that patenter of “Klein Blue” once said,“blue has no dimensions. It is beyond dimensions,” believing in the power of blue to transcend time and space.

“A slightly different blue can conjure a completely different kind of emotional response. It's just like how our moods are pegged to the weather… There's an emotional element to them that I think is triggered by that. And that has a lot to do with the color.”

For the artist, a searching desire for spaces of personal reflection in nature became the guiding force to developing works that touch on both the macro and micro of human experience. Through the simplified process of working with watercolor, Dupont simultaneously reveals the vastness of transcendental space and the intimacy of personal expression, and continues this practice at his studio in Yonkers, New York.

Dupont in his Yonkers studio.

Richard Dupont (b. 1968, New York City) exhibited with Evergreene Studio when it was a brick-and-mortar gallery in Geneva, Switzerland called Greene gallery, and later Evergreene gallery. Between 1998 and 2004, his work was presented by the galleries in three solo exhibitions and one group show.

Dupont received a BA (1991) from the Departments of Visual Art and Art and Archeology at Princeton University. His works are included in the collections of numerous museums including The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The New York Public Library Print Collection and most recently in 2020, the Pérez Art Museum Miami. In 2014, he was the recipient of the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) Visionary Award.