Essential Oil pix
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 8/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
The painter working on Martin, one of his oils on an aluminum panel.
A segment of Lapa. Jump. White White Over, hung above a Brazilian rosewood console and an Italian ceramic vase in his Los Angeles foyer.
Luc, Paris, a floor lamp by Gae Aulenti, a vintage bench by George Nelson, a chair by Charles and Ray Eames, and French 1950's ceramics in the painter's living area.
A '70's floor lamp and two oils, Vico and Jockey, flanking the door to the terrace.
|By any criteria, Robert Greene ranks as a bona fide artist. His paintings are in the collections of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, and he's participated in the "Whitney Biennial." He's also an honorary member of the design community.
After studying industrial design at Syracuse University and Pratt Institute, Greene eventually landed a job as a colorist and textile designer for Anne Klein. In the 1980's, he spent two years as a color and materials specialist at the Walker Group, an architecture firm. Everything shifted when he left to pursue his artistic dream, supporting himself with a part-time job as an information assistant at the Met.
He now lives in Los Angeles. (Home is a 1920's bungalow in Venice with an "urban garden" that he hired landscape designer Jay Griffith to add.) And he's working on a January solo show at the Robert Miller Gallery in New York.
Why painting rather than design?
I had never drawn a thing until someone suggested a figure-drawing class at Parsons. The teacher was encouraging, saying I had a quiet, sensitive touch.
What were your early paintings like?
They were emotional landscapes, fantasies where I arranged people I knew in different settings. At the time, I was working three days a week at the Met, and I was influenced by the Dutch landscapes.
But then your work became abstract. Why?
It was a natural evolution. At first, I was trying to tell narratives that related to what was happening in my life. They were all about looking for love. Then I met Doug, and I didn't need to paint that anymore.
Doug Speidel, one of the creative directors at TBWAChiatDay.
We've been partners for 10 years. He made it OK to go on to a second story.
I was attracted to the cut paintings of Lucio Fontana, which have an aura of infinity. I became interested in making abstracts about how things and people are endless.
Tell us about process.
The paintings all involve repositioning thick or thin bands of color and texture. I'm obsessive about assemblage, putting things together, while still showing the human touch of the painter.
What are the mediums that you use?
It's all oil paint. I paint rhythms in oil on vellum—for its transparency—and then mount the combination on 1/4-inch-thick solid aluminum.
Has L.A. influenced you?
The city's history of modernism has been a huge influence. It's what made me want to create my own modern paintings. Then there's nature, with its own patterns and colors prompting my explorations in paint.
I think genetics come into play. My grandfather was a diamond dealer, my father a financial executive. They probably had a role in helping me develop a clear organizational structure.
How about your experience in fashion?
I've always been attracted by elegant things that are accessible. Through fashion, I was exposed to fine textiles. I was also very close to an aunt who was a couture buyer for boutiques in Canada and the U.S.
Lately I've been looking at the collage effect at Gio Ponti's Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento. Even though people say that good art is not meant to be decorative, paintings absolutely decorate a room. They affect the environment, and I don't see how that can be separate.
When Phil Rosenthal, who's the executive producer of Everybody Loves Raymond, and his wife, Monica, commissioned me to do five paintings for their restaurant, Jar, I wound up tailoring the colors and textures of the pieces to be shown against walnut paneling, not the typical white gallery wall.
Any other connections to the design world?
Peter Marino bought one abstract that's white with flecks of brown, gray, and taupe—for his personal collection. Then he commissioned me to do a photo-collage installation for a town house he was designing. I based it on an earlier version, which one of his assistants had seen at a gallery. And it fit the house, which was typical Marino—double-wide, with all these luxurious textures.
What's your schedule like on a daily basis?
Unless I'm traveling, I paint all the time—until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. It takes about three weeks for one painting, and I like to do the cutting for one when another is drying. I get tired, physically, but never bored. I want every piece to be beautiful. That spurs me on.
And when you're not working?
There's my dog, Luc, a black poodle. We walk on the beach, go to lunch, or hang out. He's stylish and sweet and a reminder of everything that's fantastic.