The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz announces “Totally Dedicated: Leonard Contino, 1940-2016,” a new exhibition focused on the art practice of Contino, a self-taught abstract artist whose tenacious exploration of pictorial space spanned a 50-year career.
“Totally Dedicated” will be on view from Jan. 22 – April 5, 2020, in The Dorsky’s Alice and Horace Chandler and North Galleries at SUNY New Paltz. A public opening reception will be held on Saturday, Feb. 8, from 5–7 p.m.
The exhibition is organized by the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art and the Estate of Leonard Contino, and is curated by Curator and Exhibitions Manager Anna Conlan.
In 1959, at the age of 19, Leonard Contino was severely injured in a diving accident. Paralyzed from the shoulders down, he retained some mobility in his arms and hands, and needed to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. While in rehabilitation at the Rusk Institute in New York City, Contino met a fellow patient, the sculptor Mark di Suvero, who would become a lifelong close friend. Di Suvero challenged him to start making art.
With di Suvero’s encouragement and the help of a metal brace to support his wrist, Contino began a daily, nearly meditative practice of painting from morning to evening. He later observed that being an artist was like a religious calling; you had to be “totally dedicated.”
This exhibition documents Contino’s total dedication in more than 80 artworks, making it the largest exhibition of his work to date. It encompasses large hard-edge geometric paintings, playful collages, delicate reliefs and sculptures from the 1960s through the 2000s, and also includes two painted steel sculptures that di Suvero and Contino made together.
These works showcase the technical mastery that Contino gained through his unflagging commitment to daily painting – learning through making, repeating variations again and again. They use delicate, translucent hues and contrasting colors applied with razor-sharp precision, creating illusions of motion and energy that lend his work a metaphysical edge.
This exhibition shows that Leonard Contino occupied both the real-world space of his kitchen table studio and the illusory world just beyond the surface of the canvas. Navigating that pictorial space was his life journey, his daily work, and his calling.
Through its collections, exhibitions and public programs, the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art supports and enriches the academic programs at the College and serves as a center for Hudson Valley arts and culture. With more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space distributed over six galleries, The Dorsky Museum is one of the largest museums in the SUNY system. Since its official dedication in 2001, The Dorsky has presented more than 100 exhibitions, including commissions, collection-based projects, and in-depth studies of contemporary artists including Robert Morris, Alice Neel, Judy Pfaff, Carolee Schneemann and Ushio Shinohara.
For more information about The Dorsky Museum and its programs, visit newpaltz.edu/museum or call (845) 257-3844.