Palm Springs Desert Museum

Palm Springs, CA



John Register: A Retrospective


A new exhibition by realist painter John Register (1939 - 1996) will open at the Palm Springs Desert Museum on Wednesday, September 22, 1999.

John Register: A Retrospective is a provocative collection of hauntingly seductive images by one of the most distinctive realist painters of his generation and runs through November 28,1999 in the Museum's Annenberg Art Wing.

This exhibition is comprised of approximately 65 superlative works completed by Register between 1974 and 1996 that showcase the recurring themes of his work - stark interiors of diners; waiting rooms and bus depots; empty chairs in old hotel lobbies; vacant, mundane offices; the environs of Los Angeles and the desert landscape; New York and the urban streetscape; and suburban settings. (right: Houses Near Freeway, 1991, oil on canvas, 35 x 50 inches, Collection of David and Victoria Register)

Register's use of his own photographs as a source of imagery and composition for his paintings allowed him to evoke the essence of ordinary objects and anonymous places he visited on long car and train trips he took throughout the country for most of his life. His compositions were often derived from or enhanced by photocopies of photographs that reduced the pictures to bold, simplified shapes of dark and light. Often, Register would eliminate larger details such as barber stools, wall coverings, cars and people. This reductive approach to a composition was summed up by the artist when he said, "Painting is less rendering and more distillation.... Every painting starts with a pure vision. Every brushstroke leads you further away from the vision. At the end, if the vision is barely discernible, you have to be grateful." (left above: Venetian Light, 1977, oil on canvas, 49 1/2 x 42 inches, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Weir, Photograph courtesy of Modernism Gallery, San Francisco; right above: Martini, 1994, oil on canvas, 50 x 35 inches, Collection of Suzanne and Guy Lampard)

Often compared with Edward Hopper, Register has explained, "With Hopper you witness someone else's isolation; in my pictures, I think you, the viewer, become the isolated one."

Born in New York and educated at the University of California at Berkeley, John Register was influenced by the Photo-realist artists Richard Estes and Ralph Goings. However, unlike these painters, Register used photographs merely as a starting point - an armature - for his work.

This exhibition is accompanied by a 192-page full-color book by Barnaby Conrad III, a longtime personal friend of John Register's.

John Register A Retrospective has been organized by the San Jose Museum of Art. The Palm Springs showing and educational programs are funded in part by the Museum's Artists Council..

Read more about the Palm Springs Desert Museum 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. 10/26/10

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.