I paint the world so I may see the world, to try and know it in all its depth and complexity, to witness its beauty and truth. I hope that viewers will find in these paintings a record of that engagement, and then look again at the world itself with a refreshed and deepened vision.
Born in 1974, Joel Griffith was named the official Painter Laureate of his hometown of Tivoli, NY in 2003. Many of his paintings grace the walls of Tivoli’s Town Hall.
Griffith received his BA from Grinnell College in 1996. He studied painting at Lacoste Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France in 1998 and earned his MFA at Bard College's Milton Avery Graduate School of Art in 2003. He was honored with a Peter S. Reed Foundation Grant in 2005.
Griffith was the featured cover artist and the subject of a short film produced by Stephen Blauweiss for Chonogram Magazine, July 2013. (Click here to view) His show of 10 oil paintings at Neumann Fine Art is the artist’s eighth solo exhibition.
"Joel Griffith’s deeply felt and meticulously executed Hudson Valley landscapes and nocturnes are produced with the consummate painting skill learned from study of the Old Masters, but painted with the fresh and sharp eye of a 21st Century realist. Painted on-site from direct observation rather than photo-referenced, his work is at once classic and contemporary. More than just formally and technically excellent; the work has great soul. We are extremely proud to add Joel Griffith to the select group of accomplished artists represented by Neumann Fine Art," said Gallery Director Jeffrey L. Neumann.
Essay on Joel Griffith by Tim Davis, Associate Professor of Photography, Bard College
Art should be at least as interesting as barstool conversation. But most times it isn't. It often lacks the urgency, the conviviality, the woven tightness of social fabric present between two people talking. Joel Griffith's masterful (and Old Masterful) paintings of his hometown feel like sly, intimate proclamations between longtime neighbors, people who care enough about a place that they are willing to look at it absolutely unflinchingly. Griffith is the official town painter of Tivoli, NY, but his paintings are not boosterish, would not work well on a postage stamp. They are too real, too close to what it actually feels like to move through a small town with your very clear eyes open. They are closer to Goya than Grant Wood, employing the purest of descriptive technique to talk about a feeling in the air, the hum from a power line, true sentiment rather than mere description.
But enormously descriptive they are. However simplistic it may be to compare him to his geographical neighbor, Frederic Church, Griffith is indeed the inheritor of Church's leaf-by-leaf skill at tallying and proving the value of a landscape. Except instead of standing above the landscape from a godlike vantage point, Griffith paints on the ground, in the normal light of a normal night, or a 4:30 in February. These paintings are suffused with pure, uncut reverence. Americans live in an Epicurean society—our real religion being the pleasures of daily life—and Joel Griffith is a high priest in the cult of The Real. His easel lit by clip lamps powered by a car battery, this painter is as dedicated to the power of the unfiltered actual world, with its x,y, and z axees and steady certainty that everything matters.
I am struck by how analog these works are. Like Robert Bechtle's paintings of sun-blasted midday California, these canvases are steadfast deniers that the world is getting smaller. Just because half of us are spending all day staring at screens doesn't make the world smaller. In fact it makes it less observed, more open, and Joel Griffith's paintings treat this analog world like a new frontier, stepping into an overlooked topography with new eyes every day. These paintings are like a great story told at the local bar by a profound poet with a visionary eye.