“This is about healing. I think ultimately great painting is about healing. Whether it’s yourself or the viewer – and it’s really important to note that a painting doesn’t exist unless it’s got eyes in front of it.”
“I’m not obsessed with making a ‘new’ type of painting, but I am interested in presenting what my interests are to develop a painting that’s intrinsically and closely tied to that individual vision as possible. Because if I’m doing that, it’s going to be new.”
If you look at my work, for the most part, the works are rather large in scale and they’re also very tactical. They’re tough, they’re heavy, and they’re physical paintings. So I always found it kind of a nice juxtaposition when I would go to Los Angeles and see friends and artists out there and shows where it became about light and space.
“Installed right in front of me on the main wall was Robert Rauschenberg’s largest Combine Painting, Skyway, from 1964. And I just had an epiphany. John F. Kennedy was pointing down at me and I just saw my life flash before my eyes. I heard the calling. I was like, I’m going to be a painter. For real, for real, I’m going to go all the way with this, whatever that means.”
Combining realistic representations of animals and vegetation, Abstract Expressionism, and hard-edge geometry, John Newsom’s paintings explore our intricate and complicated relationship with nature. I spoke with John about his origins, his practice, and his upcoming exhibitions: a mid-career retrospective at the Oklahoma Contemporary Museum and a two-person show with Raymond Pettibon in Palm Beach.
One of the first ‘Writers’ of the late 1960s, COCO 144 embossed New York City subway cars, underground tunnels, and concrete walls with his spray-painted pen name—inspired by a popular Puerto Rican pet name and the street that he grew up on in Manhattan, 144th street. His art lives on, both literally and figuratively, throughout the hollows of New York City.
In the wake of the Civil Rights movement, a generation of children took to the streets, and signed their names to the trains and walls of a crumbling New York City infrastructure. This innovative language dismissed as “graffiti” by the media was illegible to the outsider, and a creative call-to-arms for the initiate, a battle of letters and words Rammellzee dubbed “Iconoclast Panzerism.”