Ronnie Landfield

Ronnie Landfield (born January 9, 1947 in The Bronx, New York) is an American abstract painter. During his early career from the mid-1960s through the 1970s his paintings were associated with Lyrical Abstraction (related to Postminimalism, Color Field painting, and Abstract expressionism), and he was represented by the David Whitney Gallery and the Andre Emmerich Gallery. A veteran of more than sixty solo exhibitions and nearly two hundred group exhibitions, he is best known for his abstract landscape paintings.

Angels in the Morning

Landfield began exhibiting his work in New York City in 1962. He studied painting by visiting important museum and gallery exhibitions in New York City during the early sixties and by taking painting and drawing classes at the Art Students League of New York and in Woodstock, New York. He graduated from the High School of Art and Design in June 1963. Briefly attending the Kansas City Art Institute, he returned to New York City in November 1963. At sixteen he rented his first loft at 6 Bleecker Street near the Bowery (sublet with a friend from the figurative painter Leland Bell) and his abstract expressionist oil painting’s took on hard-edge’s and large painterly shapes. In February 1964 he traveled to Los Angeles. He settled in Berkeley, California in March 1964, where he began painting Hard-edge abstractions primarily with acrylic paint. He briefly attended the University of California, Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute before finally returning to New York City in July 1965.

Garden of Delight 

In 1964-1966 he experimented with minimal art, sculpture, hard-edge geometric painting, found objects, and finally began a series of 15 – 9′ x 6′ mystical border paintings. After a serious setback in February 1966 when his loft at 496 Broadway burned down, he returned to painting in April 1966 by sharing a loft with his friend Dan Christensen at 4 Great Jones Street. The Border Painting series was completed in July 1966, and soon after architect Philip Johnson acquired Tan Painting for the permanent collection of The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In late 1966 through 1968 he began exhibiting his paintings and works on paper in leading galleries and museums. In the mid-1960s Landfield was one of the first painters who led the move away from Minimalism and Hard-edge painting to Lyrical Abstraction. Landfield moved into his loft at 94 Bowery in July 1967; there, he continued to experiment with rollers, staining, hard-edge borders, and painting unstretched on the floor for the first time. Briefly in 1967-1968 he worked part-time for Dick Higgins and the Something Else Press.

His paintings were included in the 1967, and the 1969 Whitney Museum of American Art’s Annual exhibitions and he was also included in the first Whitney Biennial in 1973. During the late 1960s through the early ’70s his work was included in group exhibitions at the Park Place Gallery, the Bianchini Gallery, the Bykert Gallery, the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts (formerly Stanford University Museum of Art) amongst other places. In 1967-1968 two drawings were reproduced in S.M.S. III by the Letter Edged in Black Press, and he was included in New York 10 1969, a portfolio of prints published by Tanglewood Press.

Autumn Reunion

In October 1969 he had his first one-man exhibition at the David Whitney Gallery in NYC. His works in that exhibition and from that period are partially inspired by Chinese Landscape painting. His painting Diamond Lake 1969, 108 x 168 inches, was acquired from Philip Johnson by the Museum of Modern Art in 1972 and was installed in the lobby of MoMA for several months. His painting Elijah 1969, 108 x 55 inches was exhibited in Beijing, China for a few years in the early nineties.

His work is in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The National Gallery of Art, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Norton Simon Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Walker Art Center, The Seattle Art Museum, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, The Des Moines Art Center, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, the Butler Institute of American Art, the Allen Memorial Art Museum, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, New York University, the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, amongst numerous others.

Force of Nature

Landfield traveled throughout the southwest in 1973 and again in 1975. With friends he camped, lived and painted dozens of paintings on canvas and limestone in the mountains outside Zion National Park in southern Utah. He taught Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts from 1975 until 1989. For ten years from 1975 until 1984 four of Landfield’s paintings from the collection of Philip Johnson were installed in the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building on Park Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets in Midtown Manhattan, on the so-called Mark Rothko wall.

Spending the early summer of 1980 on the Caribbean island of St. Barts Landfield produced a series of india ink and acrylic paintings on paper there. Throughout the later 1980s and 1990s he often spent summers in various towns throughout the western Catskill Mountains painting abstractions and abstract landscapes in oil paint and acrylic. During the 1980s and early ’90s he showed his paintings with the Charles Cowles Gallery and Stephen Haller Fine Arts in New York City. During this period Landfield exhibited his paintings widely. He had solo exhibitions or was included in group exhibitions in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Paris, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC and Zurich, to name a few places. In 1989-1990 Landfield began correspondence with the late art historian, Professor Daniel Robbins, about the neglected historical understanding of abstract painting in New York since the mid-1960s. Landfield began extensive writing and lecturing about abstract painting from the late 1960s to the mid-’70s.

In 1994 Landfield presided over two public panel discussion’s at the New York Studio School and the Tenri Institute both in Manhattan called Cool and Collected or Too Hot to Handle. In 1995 he curated Seven Painters at the Nicholas/Alexander Gallery in SoHo that featured seven important abstract painters whose careers began in the mid to late sixties, and some of whom hadn’t been shown for many years. In 1997 he aided colleague Ronald Davis’s creation of an educational website highlighting abstract art from the sixties. He was represented by the Salander/O’Reilly Gallery in New York from 1997 until 2007. In October 2005 he had a solo exhibition of his paintings accompanied by a solo show of sculpture by Peter Reginato at the Heidi Cho Gallery in Chelsea. In 2007 Landfield had a retrospective exhibition Ronnie Landfield: Paintings From Five Decades, at the Butler Institute of American Art Landfield has exhibited his work in important institutions and galleries for nearly five decades, and at a recent lecture at the Art Students League of New York he said “It’s important for maximum freedom for an artist, to stay under the radar for as long as possible”. Currently he teaches at The Art Students League of New York. He draws, paints and writes lefthanded. Landfield’s two sons are artists who live in New York, Matthew Hart Landfield is an actor/writer/director and Noah Landfield is a painter/musician.


Author: James Presley

I am an artist and I love it. What do I have to do to live from what I love? I'm not dying or cutting me bloody ear off, that's for sure.

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