New to the Ackland: A Painting by John Gibson

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A painting of piled-up multicolor polka dot spheres

John Gibson, a Massachusetts-based artist, has been single-mindedly painting spheres for some four decades. This mesmerizing work, Large Dots with Violet, recently given to the Ackland by a donor who prefers to remain anonymous, is a classic example of Gibson’s art, combining an almost minimalist focus on material and pure shapes with a baroque exuberance of color and decoration. The artist speaks of influences both from modern American artists who prioritized reductive, essential forms and from seventeenth-century European still life painting. “I want them both,” he has written.

Given their improbable, if not impossible pyramidal arrangement, Gibson’s balls are conceptual, not painted from observation. Depicting spheres is perhaps the purest form of one of the bedrock issues of painting: how to render three-dimensional shapes on a two-dimensional surface. In works such as this, Gibson also deploys repetitive patterning, reflective surfaces, intricately scored lines, and shadow effects to explore many aspects of that conundrum. Given the inadequacy of digital imaging for a work of this visual complexity, we look forward to putting the work on view in the summer of 2024, in a special exhibition of recent acquisitions of modern and contemporary paintings. This new gift joins a 1991 etching by Gibson already in the collection.

— Peter Nisbet, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs

Image Credit:
John Gibson, American, born 1958, Large Dots with Violet, 1994, oil on panel, frame: 55 1/2 × 49 1/2 in. (141 × 125.7 cm). Anonymous Donor, 2023.34. © 12/1/2023 John Gibson