Opening: JAMES HAYWARD – “SATORI” on Saturday, Dec 10, 5–7pm @ Richard Telles Fine Art Los Angeles

If I wanted to look at monochromatic paintings I’d stay home and look at my walls. That being said, I’m a big fan of “artists” who challenge the established definitions of what “art” is, so begrudgingly this is being posted, if only for Hayward’s historical significance. Disagree? Feel free to let me know in the comments…

James Hayward Grey 18 1976 acrylic on canvas on board 33 x 33 inches


DECEMBER 10, 2011 –
JANUARY 14, 2012

Opening Reception:
Saturday, December 10,
from 5 to 7pm.

*Download full essay by Max Maslansky here.*

“In conjunction with Pacific Standard Time, Richard Telles Fine Art presents a selection of paintings and drawings by James Hayward that span from 1972 to 1979. Having worked in Los Angeles for over 30 years, with the occasional stint elsewhere, Hayward is known to many for his 1970’s monochromes and the paintings that followed. The exhibition will feature his first “Automatic” paintings, whose genesis was in 1975, as well as Hayward’s psychedelic period that presaged them. These works, produced during his association with the short-lived “Visionary School” of painters based in San Francisco, have not been exhibited since the early 1970’s. It is with great pleasure we present Hayward’s spontaneous leap between two bodies of work—his “satori” moment—and how he participated in the aesthetic shift of the Los Angeles art world in the 1970’s.

James Hayward’s “Automatic” paintings occupy their own inimitable niche within the world of monochromes, a convenient demarcation (like all demarcations) that obscures the mutating, outbound threads that belie it. It entails his “hand” but also its method of guidance—or lack thereof: Hayward painted the monochromes “automatically”, yet reveal no evidence of this or the brush itself. Automatism served as the perfect foil to suspend analysis by disconnecting the arm and wrist from his brain’s frontal lobe. Unlike previous incarnations of automatism, which saw the subconscious as the primary force, Hayward’s brand bordered on Dadaist gesture for its remarkable self-abnegation. He worked in exhaustive sessions, obsessively layering acrylic paint wet-on-wet, only to dry-brush the topmost layer, eliminating all traces of the process. At least temporarily, he suspended brush mark codes foisted by history, sometimes even reinforcing the suspension by working in the dark. He repetitively applied the layers methodically and impulsively, his brush guided within an imaginary grid. This process would take up to 3 years before a painting was finished, at which point he decided it contained the optimum amount of energy and chromatic density that could sustain meditative viewing—and to such a limit that the object-subject distinction was blurred, thus making the painting ever-present, subtly reactive to ever-changing perceptual conditions. Flatly uneconomical, and uncompromising, Hayward might ascribe, if obliquely, to the William Blake dictum “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”.

But how does one reconcile these works with Hayward’s “Visionary School” paintings? These acidic, aggressively optical works, however tethered to the aesthetics of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, retained working principles that Hayward would employ from his “satori” moment and thereon. Hayward had made literal use of the grid in works such as Breakfast of Epiphanies, which was later subsumed within the “Automatic” paintings as a circuitous roadmap for the arm. The lapidary lines of the drawings, (studies for the unfinished Salome Won’t You Please Come Home) rendered in marker in the specific order of yellow, pink, blue, and black, a process pioneered by the mysterious Venetian master Giorgione, also fed into Hayward’s mixing process for the tri-fold of blacks (red-black, blue-black, yellow-black) he used in Vicky Died Today in 1975. But the “satori” moment that binds these two bodies of work also contains a cultural bellwether, an unconscious a smack of resistance to the forces of aesthetic commoditization and excess that degenerated movements like “The Visionary School”. Hayward was not concerned with denying himself the excesses of color and surface he enjoyed, but employing them to the limit of everything and nothing. In doing so, he found a new proposition. While it shares concerns with his East coast brethren like Robert Ryman and Brice Marden, or to those in the West like John McCracken, it primarily comprised concerns of his own that could only be translated physically and optically. This is why experiencing a Hayward “Automatic” is wholly unique and can only be experienced in person. He remained (and still does) on his own path. “Moths do not follow moths”, Hayward has said, “they seek the flame”, connoting that overlaps with contemporaries are incidental, and that his work’s uniqueness lies in his peculiar methods and focus on particular chromatic phenomena, which always shift depending on where you stand.

James Hayward has been included in numerous exhibitions in Los Angeles and abroad. He is currently included in Under the Black Sun at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and recently held a survey exhibition of painting from 1972 to 2011 at R.B. Stevenson Gallery, La Jolla, California. James Hayward lives and works in Moorpark, California.”