Boca Raton Museum of Art

Boca Raton, FL



Jerry Weiss: Landscapes

May 19 through July 11, 1999


Jerry Weiss

The plastic elements inherent in a painting are derived from the object in nature. This has always been so, though there may be complete disintegration of the natural forms in the end result. It cannot be otherwise, because nature contains "the only vital source of elemental forms." (left: Jerry Weiss at Work, photo by Douglas Smith)

Jerry Weiss's imagination envelops the minutiae of total experience, a remembrance of things past and present in the object or event. This conditions his imagery and molds the personal idea. It stamps indelibly the mark on the man, and since the artist is no greater or less than he is the man, he cannot walk alone in a self-nourished intellectual vacuum conjuring free forms out of nothing. Though an end result may be a valid non-figurative statement, this statement always stems from a man who is a product of his age with all of the implications that are then imposed on his personal visual concepts. This imposition is not an intrusion; it is the thing that makes it possible for him to soar above his material in an aesthetic sense and deal with it in terms of purity - the abstract idea.

An artist walking in a sun-drenched green held may observe on the sharp horizon a house that stands to the left, and some distance away, a tree standing on the right. The artist with his personal vision observing the separate objects in the scene will then synthesize these individual visual concepts on the flat plane of the canvas into an integrated whole. In the process many things may happen. He may destroy completely the literal identification of the objects. He may do this by moving the tree closer to the house, eliminating certain branches of the tree, twisting the trunk into a more exciting form, eliminating or redesigning and distorting parts of the house; he may paint the green field yellow or brown, ignore the sunlight and create a mood of brooding violence, or he may totally abstract the objects into pure vertical or horizontal linear motifs or patterns, and finally he may introduce elements into the canvas that are invisible in the actual landscape.

To paint from nature, then, is not to literally transpose an object but to select, to invent, and then to conclude an observation by setting up visual foils and tangents in the event or object toward a designed order, creatively probing through a design process for the structural integrity in nature beneath the visibly fleeting surface. The resolved imagery is an amalgam of the abstract concept, the idea wedded to the basic facts of nature to achieve a reality that is more real than the physical reality of the event or object.

Since the abstract concept, the idea of the object and not the object itself, is the concern of the artist in this exhibition, the conclusion drawn is that he is not a painter of pictures but of visual ideas, stemming from the idea of the object. To quote Juan Gris, "Nails are made from nails, for if the idea of the possibility of a nail did not exist in advance, there would be a serious risk that the material might be used to make a hammer or a curling tong. A painting is not made simply with canvas, brushes and colors; one can produce a landscape, but there will be no painting unless the idea of painting exists a priori." Since "a priori" the idea of the object is paramount, then the exploration in the realm of the object and event are immediate. Weiss begins with content, i.e. the object or event; then, immediately departing from this, he is concerned with the idea of the object or event. This idea becomes a problem in form for form's sake and the form then shapes the ultimate content. The content is now so completely fused with the form that it is one. The essence has been extracted from these separate parts and into an aesthetic whole. (right: Jerry Weiss, Self-portrait, oil on linen, 30 x 22 inches)

A painting is a synthesis because it is based on the idea and its relationship to another idea and to the space or interval between these ideas. It also is evident that since the idea of the object and not the object itself is important, so is the observation that in the historical process the object in nature has not changed but the artist's visual concept of it has, and because of this, the art of the period changes. These changes take place because the artist's imagery is conditioned by the strain and pull, the constantly shifting values of his age. Because this is so, Jerry Weiss is a product of his age - a victim of his age, so to speak, while contributing to the mold and shape of his period, and because he is the synthesizing agent, fitting the parts into a whole, he is the recorder of his age. His role is the antithesis of the catalytic agent; though he brings elements together, his identity changes and his art changes. The change comes about because these elements he brings together constitute a true reflection of the age, for his vision has been shaped according to the needs of his age.

Weiss with a great heritage goes to the past for design concepts for form, but looks to the present for his investigation of content. The path of exploration in the conquest of contemporary vision has been paved with the vision of the past, and out of necessity has at certain periods been resurfaced and added to with the materials of the time. The artist featured in this show is concerned with realities stemming from the subjective rather than a concern with objective expression of surface realities.

Just what it is viewers draw from Weiss's landscapes I cannot surely say, though it is obvious that his apparently plain-spoken presentation offers no big barriers to communication. Compared to much of present-day art, it is very straight material, and a viewer can quickly know what the artist has seen. A tree is a tree is a tree, likewise is a bridge a bridge? Thus the transition from the pictures to the possible meaning of it is virtually troublefree, and among his other rewards the artist must accrue some gratitude for that. (left: Jerry Weiss, Silver Bridge, oil on panel, 1997, 24 x 30 inches, Collection of the artist)

His simple subjects evoke feelings - not always complex - and it is to these feelings one responds. Loneliness, a sense of the brevity of human life, an awareness of death just around the corner; these are some of the signals one gets from looking at Weiss's pictures, many of which please, trouble and stir observers immensely.

The steps in the painting of the past - the Impressionists' analysis of color on form, Cezanne's quest into the basic forms of nature, thinking of the form in nature in terms of the cube, the cone, the sphere, the cubists' analysis of form itself - have evolved the visual investigation of the creative painter of today. Jerry Weiss, unlike the painter of the Renaissance, is not concerned with the appearance of objects in a religious sense, it is so because this is not a religious age. This is an age of science - a violent, bloody atomic age - the age of insecurity aware that the object's reality is not contained in its appearance but within the idea of the object itself.

In this age the creative process of the contemporary artist and scientist are parallel to a certain point, and then inexorably they go off into separate worlds, one to the reality of the physical world, the other to the reality of the world of ideas, beginning and ending at opposite poles but and aspirin. The creative mind is today concerned with the inner meanings for the attainment of a visual order, using the same means for their respective ends. The laws of science we know are products of the creative imagination. They have been promulgated through a process of abstract analysis using abstract symbols to record the phenomena of the physical world, starting with the abstract idea and ending with the physical fact. Jerry Weiss employing his creative imagination, through a similar pattern of abstract analysis and using visual symbols, starts at the opposite pole. He begins with the physical fact, the object or event in nature as a point of departure, and is then concerned with the world of visual ideas.

The reality of his world is a very personal yet timeless entity. Them are no perimeters of fixed constants. Therefore, the dimension of things unseen which he explores are infinite, and his reality, being a very relative one, is ever changing according to the needs imposed upon him by his age. If his statement has been compounded with the tools of a creative vision, the visual statement of his time becomes timeless.

Essay by George S. Bolge, Executive Director


Read more about the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/18/10

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2010 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.