As a young man in the Greenwich Village of the late 1950s, Bob Crimi studied with his uncle Alfred Crimi, a fresco muralist and easel painter. Alfred received his own art training at La Scuola Preparatoria Alle Arti Ornamentali in Rome and, in turn, taught Bob the same classical approach to art.
Bob's five year apprenticeship with his uncle encompassed drawing from the antique, compositional balance, color relationships, grinding of pigments, basics of fresco, gilding frames, and other time-honored traditions of the European method of artistic development.
In his late teens he began working as a technical illustrator, then began designing books for Macmillan. In his late twenties, he made a committment to devote his time to painting. He worked independently for New York and London publishers, freelancing book cover design, page layout, and illustration.
The innovative power of the arts of the 1950s in New York City was a phenomenon of innovation and exploration. The energy of that time remains with Bob Crimi today. As manifestations of moments of process, his paintings often straddle the ambiguous line between the objective and the abstract; the abstract coming from the influences of Willem DeKooning, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko.
Feeling the urban environment to be confining, Crimi set up a home and studio in New Paltz, NY, in 1972, where he allowed the rural surroundings seep into his works. In 2007, he relocated in a home/studio in the Taghkanic Hills of Columbia County.
Since the late 1960s, he has exhibited his work in New York City, throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley, and in the Berkshires. He has taught privately, as well as at the Woodstock School of Art.
After fifty years of working with oils, the landscape still imposes its presence on his continuing impulse to paint.
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Placing one painting carefully on the easel while two others leaned against the easel legs, Bob Crimi grappled with words in trying to explain his "states of mind" during their creation. And thus with one painting after another being displayed and scrutinized and discussed, we were oblivious to a brilliant afternoon light that filled the studio and illuminated the paintings.
We devoured the work, groping for each work's hidden meaning, its possible success or a reason for its missing the mark. it seemed crucial to both of us to unmask some secret enlightening generality that might be impacted within the work as a whole, a mirror of one artist's ethos or philosophy or weltanschauung.
Sooner or later the artist must somehow come to terms with his work; he must sense its message, recognize its reflection of his hidden resources and persistent prejudices, he must repossess the work with all its successes and not a little of its failures.
No artist goes through this process unaided, alone. Detachment, so necessary to any sense of objectivity, is difficult and elusive. The more ardent and committed the artist, the more engulfed he becomes in his own warping convictions; the very passion that sustains him and enflames his work also discourage against cool appraisal. Many artists dote on their weakness and trash their strengths because of impatient, rash self-criticism.
And so carefully, cautiously, like explorers stepping on slippery terrain, keeping a precious balance, we sought for words and phrases that opened the painting's meanings to us, that redirected our attention to each of the work's virtues and liabilities —of moving beyond the obvious to what was implied or hidden.
No matter what Crimi's inspirations and motifs are-- the human figure, landscape, interior or still life-- they find their transformation into paint through his special temperament. His broken, high key color, textured surface and combination of staccato strokes and sinuous lines help to exaggerate forms. Forms that seem to dismantle themselves in a vibration of life, irrepressibly ready to mutate into a pure whirlwind of sensuous energy.
In the reinterpreted color, the reshuffled planes, the coruscating light and glowing shade, the unstable boundary lines, and the fractured volumetric presence of his motif, Crimi witnesses an extraordinary, startling pulse of life coursing fitfully through these barely stable elements. It's as if a current of electric energy, too great for the transmitting wire, were crackling and threatening to arc to another form.
It is life on the rim, the flight of living energy masquerading or unsuccessfully trapped in a moments guise-- evanescent, deliquescent, ephemeral! The simplest motifs threaten to sunder themselves at the blink of an eye, over-charged with life-energy profusely endowed.
He "loses" the image attempting to rediscover a new image reinvigorated, transformed through his use of broken color, calligraphic brush strokes, high key colors and energetic application of paint. He wants to become a direct conduit for an irresistible energy that he is convinced animates even the most static objects about him.
When the artist uses the spontaneous, exploratory gesture for discovering and disclosing new stimulating forms, he also needs an acute sense of selectivity and a ready disposition to discard the tiresome, the repetitive, the hackneyed, and the bogus innovation. No artist is completely free from this danger and all artists succumb periodically to this tantalizing and plausible reflex. There seems to be only two antidotes for this temperamental "fever": a tireless critical faculty, and a continuously growing and well-stocked intelligence. Bob Crimi possesses both, shoring up his seemingly infinite flow of impulses. The mixture of humility and bravado that keeps an artist assaulting the blank canvas remains, through all this, intact.
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The digital images on this site are simulacra. They are backlit electronically. The camera lens used to photograph them is only able to capture the surface. The original oil paintings are experienced with reflected light. Unlike the camera lens, the retina of the eye is able to discern all its over-painting and depth of human touch.