David Reed (born 1946 in San Diego, lives and works in New York) is one of today’s most important painters. In the mid-1970s, he translated the saturated expressive gesture of the brushstroke into an artificial, highly controlled representation of the “brushstroke”. Whereas in Abstract Expressionism, the trace of the hand still pointed to artistic introspection, Reed transformed it into an object of analysis and knowing manipulation. This amounted to a conceptual turn in the history of American painting. The intellectual approach correlates with his elaborate technique of painting with alkyd that creates unusual effects, lending the pictures an immaculate smoothness and elegance reminiscence of photography and mannerism. Using stencils, Reed is able to replicate motifs, a fact he has been using in recent years to create self-referential works. In endless work processes, he applies paint before partially rubbing it off it again. In this way, the phenomena of appearance and disappearance take on equal value. The results can stand alongside the world of the Old Masters who Reed studies around the world; more than this, they extend the grand tradition of western painting into the present.
For an exhibition at Pérez Art Museum in Miami in 2016/2017, Reed created a new series of works that were presented in the main hall of the building designed by Herzog & de Meuron. The four pictures (190 x 460 cm, three horizontal and one vertical format) will be shown in Europe for the first time this summer, together with corresponding drawings. The exhibition at Neues Museum Nürnberg offers a spectacular insight into Reed’s current practice, focussing on a single work that in many ways stands for the artist’s approach as a whole.
For these four paintings – #658, #659, #660 and #661 – Reed referred back to #212 (1984/85). As well as the number typical of the artist’s works, this older painting, marked by deep shades of blue and yellow, also has a title. It is called Vice, after the legendary U.S. television series Miami Vice that ran for five seasons between 1984 and 1989. The extremely elongated formats already reveal the importance of cinema aesthetics in the constitution of Reed’s pictures. “I like broad, horizontal Cinemascope canvases because they allow the feeling of a coming and going movement,” he says. In addition to this, he has adopted actual filmic means to overcome conventional compositional structures: “Zoom and pan, inserted sections as flashbacks, focussed and blurred areas, extensions beyond the edge of the canvas.”
Neues Museum Nürnberg has an important work by Reed in its collection: #453 (1996-2000). The artist will include this in his exhibition, making it the subject of a film sequence that will be screened during the show. This work manipulates a famous shot from the pilot for Miami Vice in which the camera captures the lights reflected on the bonnet of a sports car driving through Miami at might. Using digital processing, Reed smuggles reflections of his own painting into the footage, giving the impression that the car is driving underneath it. In this way, the film and a painting shaped by a film aesthetic become intermingled – a striking demonstration of Reed’s ability to open up the old medium of painting to new visual experiences.
Dr. Thomas Heyden, Neues Museum