Hudson Valley resident Richard Deon finds inspiration in a pastime familiar to many inattentive students the ad hoc alteration of textbook illustrations during class time. Deon has elevated this idle occupation into a complex body of artwork that relies on our own relationship with adolescence to enhance the power of his work.
Unknown men in black. A shadow at full sail. Mysterious shapes. During the past 20 years, Richard Deon has explored all these visual icons. His stunning, colorful works are inspired by the meanings and motifs of the black-and-white textbook illustrations of the 1950s.
Richard Deon: Paradox and Conformity at the Hudson River Museum
, Yonkers, on view July 3 to September 6, 2010, includes more than 50 paintings and works on paper by the artist, who is a Hudson Valley resident. The exhibition includes site-specific monumental banners designed for the Museums signature atrium.
While drawing on the methods of the unsung artists whose easily graspable images introduced school children to a pedantic view of public institutions, history, and politics, Richard Deon moves beyond illustration to artistic interpretation. He arranges his figures in situations that mimic those of the old texts but slyly asks you to examine your assumptions. Viewers find themselves in puzzling territory, where the seemingly familiar becomes an "an uneasy pictorial absurdity."
Deon remembers his seventh-grade encounter with an old, defaced textbook, Visualized Civics, that changed his view of art, if not history. Richard Deon, in junior high, delighted in this grafittied book of mustached ladies and founding fathers in frills. Taking editorial control, he extended its illustrations into the margins, adding buildings and creating new scenes. As Deon says, I created my personal Manifest Destiny. Within a few weeks, I was disciplined and issued a clean textbook, a bill, and a stern warning. Not dissuaded, Deon has, since, created a body of work influenced by the defaced illustrations of his formative years. As he notes about his work, Commentary is suggested; visual information is repeated; point of view is obfuscated. The resulting compositions are truly mixed messages―which speak or don't speak for themselves.
Deon has exhibited at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, the Katonah Museum of Art, Vassar College, the Housatonic Museum of Art, the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, the Earlville Opera House, and the Arts Exchange Building of ArtsWestchester, White Plains. His work is included in a number of private and public permanent collections and he has received commissions from New York Citys Public Art Fund and the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Richard Deon: Paradox and Conformity is based on an exhibition originally curated by Thomas Piché, Jr., for the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia, MO, and has been reorganized by Bartholomew F. Bland for presentation at the Hudson River Museum.