John Blee at Susan Calloway
Some of our area artists need little introduction, either by the number of years that they have been leaving a powerful footprint upon our area (giants like Manon Cleary, Joe Shannon, Sam Gilliam, William Christenberry and others), or by the sheer power and magnitude of their recent accomplishments (such as same building neighbors Dan Steinhilber and Tim Tate).
And then there are artists, whose accomplishments and skill and creativity, rather than their “fame,” make them a significant part of our area’s brilliant cultural tapestry.
One such artist is John Blee.
Before I discuss Blee’s current exhibition (titled Fragments and closing this Saturday at Susan Calloway Fine Art in Georgetown), let me tell you a bit about this talented and valued member of our area’s art tapestry.
John Blee has exhibited his work widely in New York, Boston, and in Washington, D.C. (where he used to exhibit at the Jack Rasmussen Gallery, back when Jack had one in the last century, so you know that Blee has been around and paid his dues).
He studied with Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Moskowitz, and Blee’s art is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.
For many years Blee was the fire and fuel behind Georgetown’s Spectrum Gallery, and his guidance and influence have been in no small part responsible for Spectrum’s success over the years that it has been a Georgetown fixture. Furthermore, a few years ago, Blee became the galleries art critic for the influential Georgetowner weekly newspaper, whose coverage of DC area galleries, incredibly enough, now outnumbers the Washington Post’s by two to one.
Fragments is Blee’s second solo in the last two years, following an exceptional show in 2004 at One World, and Fragments reaffirms Blee’s position as one of the leading abstract painters in our region.
And how is F. Lennox Campello, leading defender of figurative art and long-winded aficionado of all painted things, come to this conclusion?
Part one is a decade of observing this (and dozens and dozens of other artists’ works though countless gallery visits). Part two is realizing that although Blee is an abstract painter at a first glance, experienced eyes nonetheless can readily see where he intelligently employs an illusion of figuration in his color rich world. Part three is being seduced, little by little over the years, by a sensual brushstroke that shouts out the true power of painting.
Study “Duo” and “River Games” and “Still Life Sketch” and discover the ties that bind this exceptional painter to the never ending army of defenders of the genre. Blee is a painter’s painter and it is because of work like his, that we will never ceased to be seduced by what a talented brush can do to a blank canvas.