Charlie Nevad—Light & Dark

 

Light & Dark I/IV

September 9 - November 30, 2016



 
All life is like light and shadow—a duality.[1]
Charlie Nevad, c. 1976
 
I am more interested in the inner man than his persona. My paintings therefore need the inner response of the spectator. They are not portraits; they are what the spectator feels for them. I, as the artist, cannot answer what my paintings really are; they are an inner response most often beyond my consciousness. I present them to you as the spectator, respond which way you will, the truth is somewhere between us.[2]
Charlie Nevad, c. 1971
 
We are beginning to realize that to change the world outside, in which we live, we must understand the world inside of ourselves and change that world.[3]
Charlie Nevad, c. 1988
 
 
Charlie Nevad—Light & Dark is the first of three exhibitions throughout the school year that will each examine a different interpretation of Light & Dark. The theme was suggested by the English Department and voted into the gallery itinerary by Cambridge School of Weston students.
 
This first examination of Light & Dark presents a survey of the impressionistic paintings of Charlie Nevad. Particularly prominent in Charlie Nevad’s early work, the theme of Light & Dark emerges by way of the artist’s strategy to blend all the elements within a painting into a single relationship “to achieve oneness.[4]Nevad achieves this unification through the observance of subtle shifts between light and shadow, leading the artist to relate and unite the object with its background surroundings—“it’s all one thing.” But ultimately Charlie Nevad’s paintings go beyond naturalism to show us that closely observing light and shadow is also a deeply personal experience; it “releases many intangible thoughts and feelings onto the canvas. This subtlety allows the viewer to create his or her own ideas as they [in turn] study the canvas.[5]
 
For Charlie Nevad, painting “light and less light,”[6] as he was known to describe his process, is ultimately a vehicle of self-discovery, of seeing the self in relation to the other. For Nevad, painting is a way in which to question and examine morality:
 
The true values of light and shadow can only be seen when the relationship of the object to its surroundings is taken into account. It is the unity of all things in relationship to one another that can bring about the true value of any one thing. It’s the same with living—good and evil, instead of light and shadow, bring about the same truth. If one focuses only on good, any less good becomes evil. If one focuses on evil, anything less evil becomes good. It’s only when one focuses on the unity of the surroundings that they (good and evil) can take on their true value—like the still life, the true value of light to shadow can only be seen true by focusing on the unity of the overall.[7]
 
Charles R. Nevad (Perth Amboy, NJ 1921 - 1990) was a celebrated artist, teacher, spiritual guide and foster parent—beloved for his creativity, generosity, guidance, wisdom and humanitarianism. He was an individual of humble means; he lived and taught in his studio/apartment at 102 N. Washington Avenue, Dunellen, NJ during the last decade+ of his life. He shared his two-bedroom apartment with his foster children, who changed over the years; as they came of age, Charlie took on new children—typically teenagers. He slept on his studio floor with nothing more than a wool blanket beneath him, so that his foster children could have their own rooms. Charlie earned his living by teaching art and selling his paintings as he raised often-troubled individuals, helping them to prepare to enter society.
 
Nevad began teaching in 1966[8] and achieved considerable acclaim for his teaching methods. As his niece recalls him: More than an artist, teacher, foster parent, and mentor, Charlie had a special kind of perceptiveness that rendered him more interested in the inner man than his persona.[9]
 
In an opening statement Charlie Nevad wrote to present his work to Cambridge School of Weston Students in 1987, during Todd Bartel’s first year as a young teacher, he said:
 
When one goes into action in relationship with a canvas, this action brings about a relationship of love and giving—the two become one, painter and canvas.
 
Charlie’s notion of oneness is the catalyzing feature of his life, his teaching and his art—the unifying light.
 
During his lifetime, Charlie’s work attracted private and institutional collectors, including the Kahoe Corporation and the Virginia Museum of Art, and private collections in 16 states[10]. Despite the acclaim, Charlie Nevad’s paintings were never categorized into art historical designations. While he received local attention in the media, his work was not discussed in academic circles or art magazines—Charlie resisted classification with great fervor. Charlie made what Doris E. Brown described as “misty,” “luminous,” and “mysterious”[11] paintings, but these descriptions only hint at the art historical alignments that should be credited as influences. Moreover, Charlie Nevad’s paintings also acknowledge and contribute to the times he lived in and he continues to have influence and impact through his students, their art and their pedagogy. To date, Charlie Nevad’s contributions have not adequately been acknowledged by the cultural record.
 
In general, Charlie Nevad’s paintings today can partly be classified as late modernist works of art. Nevad’s mature work—the early paintings of the 1960s for which he was first known—could be considered late post-impressionist paintings, with a nod to the brushwork of Paul Cézanne and the sentimental self-expression of Claude Monet. Additionally, Nevad’s late 1980s work references Abstract Expressionism and Willem de Kooning in particular. And his last works acknowledge and explore collage, Picasso[12] and Primitivism. And yet, such allegiances are not the only definable features, nor the most important.
 
The “mystical” aspect of Nevad’s work separates him from his predecessors, and challenges contemporary critics and art historians who have systematically purged the words “religious” and “spirituality” from cultural discourse. As Brown points out in her newspaper article:
 
…Nevad’s mystical and “very personal” paintings have wide-spread public acceptability, despite the fact that “I don’t paint to appeal to people.” “I feel I am part of the paintings and the paintings are a part of me,” said the artist, who considers his work “a great part spiritual and religious,” though he refuses to accept the doctrines of any specific church.

His soft, luminous paintings are mysterious but evocative. “Hauntingly strong,” described a Princeton admirer, who wrote that one she had purchased last summer provides “a soul-refreshing experience.”[13]
 
For Charlie, living, painting and teaching is all one thing. Charlie’s humanitarian lifestyle pervades his work and that aspect of his art tugs his historical classification away from the criticism against Modernism and “art for art sake.” Painting was life affirming business for Charlie, and self-scrutiny a potent invocation; his art can always be described as “beseeching communion with the viewer.”[14] Looking at Charlie’s work, however, viewers are not outwardly presented with today’s postmodern visual or conceptual cues or concerns. The work does not seem to outwardly criticize culture or call for social justice. But it does. Read the artist’s statements. Given his impetus for creating, it is not a far reach to consider Charlie’s theories of light and oneness as a deconstructive strategy; paring down something to its essential components in order to unpack it and see it more clearly. If one of the main projects of Postmodernism is dedicated to critiquing and evolving culture, Charlie’s art takes part in that project—and he began doing that in 1960. Charlie’s work is every bit as controversial as the early modernists’ work, though he had no such group representation.
 
Charlie Nevad—Light & Dark was designed to loosely reference the 1913 Armory Show—which featured the work of avant-garde European and American artists and is considered one of the most controversial and influential art exhibitions ever held [15]—to examine his work in light of it. Charlie Nevad—Light & Dark was mounted in closely grouped, “salon style” arrangements, and the first two walls in the exhibition are modeled after a well-known photograph taken of the Armory show. Though Charlie was born 8 years after the famous exhibition, and he did not begin to paint until his high school years in the mid 1930s, the impact of the Armory Show was yet reverberating in no uncertain terms. Even now, over a hundred years later, the world is still researching the Armory artists’ work, shedding new light on their accomplishments and their impact with each passing year. In Charlie’s youth, the legacies of over 300 Armory Show artists were celebrated as the cutting edge of the art world which have all been cemented in Modernism’s name. Certainly, such history was palpable for Charlie, who “struggled” to establish his own voice among the mass of painters. It is interesting to take stock of the artists Charlie revered, studied, and discussed with his own students. These same artists were all exhibited in the Armory show:
 
Georges Braque, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro, John Henry Twachtman.[16]
 
As an artist deeply influenced by the Armory Show’s “New Spirit,” but unlike so many young artists of his generation who replicated that “Spirit,” the reverberations of European and American contemporary art of the day catalyzed Charlie to not only separate his voice from his predecessors, but to cultivate an interior message in his oeuvre with powerful political implications. Not outwardly evident, but inwardly present in all his work is a call for self-change. Charlie’s last known artist’s statement, Changing World, sheds light on the true underpinnings of his art:
 
The world has become smaller; we cannot sit down to a full meal without knowing people are starving around us. We cannot, being white, be unaware of the problems of being black in a white society. With news, transportation and TV so fast and close to us, we are no longer blind to the problems of humanity. We now realize all people throughout the world are the same inwardly.
 
…The focus of man has up to now always been outward, to nature, materialism, the physical; but we are saturated with these images, we are asking questions—“What’s it all about?” “What is life?” “What is Man and why?” It is an era of inwardness; we are beginning to look within ourselves for the answers for the first time with real meaning and direction. We are beginning to realize that to change the world outside, we must understand the world inside of ourselves and change that world.
 
For Charlie Nevad, understanding the relationships between objects, the surrounding environment and the unifying light is equivalent to understanding the self in relationship to others within a larger culture. While Light & Dark appears on the surface to be a show about naturalism and traditional art, in actuality, it’s an inward call for self-awareness and social competence.
 
Todd Bartel
Gallery Director, Curator
 
 
 
 


[1] Charles R. Nevad, Artist’s Statement, Light, c. 1976; Note: Charles R. Nevad rarely dated his writings. Thompson Gallery Director, Todd Bartel, first began studying with Nevad in 1976, at which time the artist read his Light statement to Bartel. While the statement likely predates 1976, this date is the earliest known date for the statement to have been in print.
[2] Charles R. Nevad, Artist’s Statement, c. 1971, revised c. 1986. Note: this revised artist statement is very close to a statement that appears in The Sunday Home News, New Brunswick, N.J., Sunday, June 6, 1971. It is interesting to note that this statement held up for the artist for at least two decades with very few refinements. For the sake of posterity, the oldest known date for the statement is used. The revised copy was given to Thompson Gallery Director, Todd Bartel during the summer of 1986—along with several other statements and writings—on the eve of teaching at The Cambridge School of Weston for the first time.
[3] Charles R. Nevad, Artist’s Statement, Changing World, c. 1988; This date is based on a painting entitled The History of Blacks, and other paintings that explore similar topics and which were painted at that time.
[4] Todd Bartel, Reflections on the Modernist Master—Charlie Nevad’s Art and Teaching, Simple Text document, 2016; Note: The word and concept of “oneness” may possibly be Charlie Nevad’s most often repeated utterance in his efforts to teach his students how to see and to paint.
[5] Charles R. Nevad, Artist’s Statement, c. 1971
[6] [6] Todd Bartel, Reflections on the Modernist Master—Charlie Nevad’s Art and Teaching, Simple Text document, 2016; Note: Todd Bartel studied painting for six years, taking private lessons with Charlie Nevad from 1975 to 1981 and staying in close contact with him up until his death in 1990.
[7] Charles R. Nevad, Light, c. 1976
[8] Ari Freedman—Charlie Nevad Interview
[9] Joyce Hutter, Reflections on Charles R. Nevad, email and document sent to the author, July 29, 2016
[10] Brown
[11] Brown
[12] MoMA 1980 Press Release; Ashis Pal (with Ellen Grismeyer), Ashis on Charlie Nevad, 7/3/16, MicrosoftWord Document, emailed to Todd Bartel on
[13] Brown
[14] Brown
[15] Anna Wolff, Ed. The Story of a House, the Official Blog of Glessner House Museum, http://glessnerhouse.blogspot.com/2013_04_01_archive.html, 2013; retrieved September 1, 2016; Note: The Armory Show, officially known as the International Exhibition of Modern Art, received its common name from its initial venue, the 69th Regiment Armory in New York, where the show ran from February 17 through March 15, 1913. The show came to Chicago and ran from March 24 through April 16 and had its final venue in Boston through the Copley Society, April 23 through May 14.
[16] Todd Bartel, Reflections on the Modernist Master—Charlie Nevad’s Art and Teaching, Simple Text document, 2016; Note 1: Todd Bartel studied painting with Charlie Nevad for six years, from 1975 to 1981 and kept in close contact with him until his death. The above-mentioned artists were all discussed at length, via books Charlie would introduce in various class lessons or in idle conversation. Note 2: cross referenced list of artists from the 1913 Armory Show 50th Anniversary Exhibition 1963 copyright and organized by Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, copyright and sponsored by the Henry Street Settlement, New York City, Library of Congress card number 63-13993, List of Artists, p. 3, http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Armory-Show.pdf, Retrieved, 9/9/16



—•—•—•—


Charlie Nevad—Light & Dark was reviewed by James Foritano in the November/December issue of ArtScope.
—•—•—•—


Artist’s Statement
 
Light tones, color tones have become an interweaving composition for me. Sometimes objects appear very strong, while other times they diminish into the background. There is a great subtlety in the values of light that, if followed, relieves the artist from concentrating on the object. Following this idea releases many intangible thoughts and feelings onto the canvas. This subtlety allows the viewer to create his or her own ideas as they study the canvas.
 
Each of us responds to one another by the persona we present outwardly. Some of us try to penetrate this to what lies beyond. In my paintings, I try to present a little of both, the outward appearance and the apparent inner mood. Never forgetting that we humans have continuity between us, something that is a part of all of us. Always realizing our connection with Nature and the Universe.
 
I am more interested in the inner man than in his persona. My paintings therefore need the inner response of the spectator. They are not portraits; they are what the spectator feels for them. I, as the artist, cannot answer what my paintings really are; they are an inner response most often beyond my consciousness. I present them to you as the spectator; respond which way you will, the truth is somewhere between us.
 
Charlie Nevad c. 1971[1]


 
Light
 
All life is like light and shadow—a duality. When the light is focused around or is in back of an object, the object appears dark and flat. If a dim light only is focused on the object, it appears hardly less than flat, but when a strong light is focused on the object, it becomes balanced with the shadow and the object in its full depth. If we focus our eyes only on this object in depth, it takes on all importance and all surrounding it becomes dim or out of focus. When this happens, at once the object becomes false because the strength of the light and the shadow appear more intense with untrue values. The true values of light and shadow can only be seen when the relationship of the object to its surroundings is taken into account. It is the unity of all things in relationship to one another that can bring about the true value of any one thing. It’s the same with living—good and evil, instead of light and shadow, bring about the same truth. If one focuses only on good, any less good becomes evil. If one focuses on evil, anything less evil becomes good. Its only when one focuses on the unity of the surroundings that they (good and evil) can take on their true value—like the still life, the true value of light to shadow can only be seen true by focusing on the unity of the overall. So too with one's values of living. One persons evaluation of light and shadow as seen on his or her canvas belongs to the person painting that canvas, while next to this person, someone else relates the values differently. The same with our evaluations of living: the value of anything must be decided within the unity of the occurrence or surrounding, and we must also realize that someone standing next to us sees or feels the true value differently. So what is the true value of anything? Only the value it has at that time, in that surrounding and by what we are at that time. Therefore, truth only exists for that time; it can be ever-changing, just as we ourselves are ever changing. If a light on a still life were a moving light, it would be very difficult to estimate the true values of anything in the still life. Therefore the light focusing on that still life at that moment brings forth our true estimate of the values seen in that still life at that moment.
 
If a man working focuses only on work, it becomes hell, but if he focuses on his family and what his work means to them, then the value of the work changes and it becomes not monetary value but the value of his love for his family. Even hard work can become lighter if the focus changes to its true value as seen against the overall unity of one’s life, instead of viewed only for itself. All life can be seen in this manner, and new evaluation of moments of living can destroy over-valued events and problems. If we approach a still life with preconceived ideas of the object and values, we can only paint as a camera sees and probably not as well, but when we approach the still life free and open to what’s before us or what we might see at any moment, we bring forth our true existence at that moment even with all its limitations. In living, if we move to each moment with preconceived concrete ideas of life, we become robots or machines. When one is always open to new concepts or moves into a moment free and lets the moment bring what it will, then life becomes new and more interesting. To live each moment free is to be renewed, so to speak, giving as much as one can to each moment.
 
Charlie Nevad c. 1976

 
 
WHEN ONE GOES INTO ACTION WITH A CANVAS
Opening Statements for Slide Presentation Given at The Cambridge School of Weston 1987
 
 
When one goes into action in relationship with a canvas, this action brings about a relationship of love and giving—the two become one, painter and canvas. With the last stroke of the brush, the relationship ends and the canvas becomes complete and separate, something of its own. The painter becomes an observer lik any other, with only a slightly different relationship. The painter now feels this strangeness of relation and observes wondering who painted this canvas. Yet the painter feels a partial relation. This attachment should be broken, so the artist goes on to a new canvas and it starts all over again. The ideal is what the artist experiences while painting, he carries to the next canvas.
 
Charlie Nevad 1987
 
 
 
 
CHANGING WORLD
 
 
The world has become smaller; we cannot sit down to a full meal without knowing people are starving around us. We cannot, being white, be unaware of the problems of being black in a white society. With news, transportation and TV so fast and close to us, we are no longer blind to the problems of humanity. We now realize all people throughout the world are the same inwardly—even though we may not think of it every moment. With this knowledge and awareness, we cannot any longer sit back and say the hell with it; it is ourselves and we know it! Artists years ago would paint a trunk of a tree brown and leaves green. Today we know this is wrong; modern art has shown us colors in both trunk and leaves that we couldn’t see before. Likewise, through the closeness of our world today, we cannot stand back and say starvation does not exist even in our own country. We can no longer say words, which have double meaning. This is an age of TRUTH and we find this truth in the offspring of ourselves, the young people.
 
The focus of man has up to now always been outward, to nature, materialism, the physical; but we are saturated with these images, we are asking questions—“What’s it all about?” “What is life?” “What is Man and why?” It is an era of inwardness; we are beginning to look within ourselves for the answers for the first time with real meaning and direction. We are beginning to realize that to change the world outside, we must understand the world inside of ourselves and change that world. It is the way to truth and we are beginning to realize this, because the changing world outside of us has not brought us any happiness.
 
“Those with eyes will see and those with ears shall hear.” This was said over and over by Jesus as he traveled around teaching the people. They seem strange to those of us who look and look around us and see only the same and the same. When man looks inward, however, and starts to see the truth of what he really is, he also starts seeing differently the world and its people, a glance of what Jesus saw and felt. His words soak into us with new meaning and the world of God is beginning to be realized for the first time. The unity of life, which brings true Love, begins to dawn on us and we cry out with joy. The direction with which God has led us to this era of truth is awakening in all mankind. We must seek God and He will come to us and the world we have dreamed about through generations and generations will come into being. It has started—We are changing. If we are not free enough to accept this change, we will run and hide into man’s world and die over and over again, but if we accept change, if we strive for the truth, everything will open for us and God will take His rightful place in our hearts and His love will flow in all of us.
These words, no matter how much you may deem them as being true—Words forever pile upon words and build up new dreams and illusions—this too must go. Action is the answer of the new era. We must relate these words to active participation—we can no longer sit idle and let the next guy do what we should be doing. We’ve played this game over and over and remained a thorn in the side of our fellow men and God. We must give our lives the true new value and spread the love within us to others and start the chain reaction that is never ending—old values for new. Man’s concept of the world must go and God’s come into focus for all mankind. Each individual must become awake and awaken others to this truth. We can no longer say something must be done, we must do it, and we are made to believe one man can do nothing—WRONG! One man can do everything. The Unity with God is not in a building, it is in the Heart, and this Unity will never crumble or decay, it is eternal.
 
Charlie Nevad c. 1988[2]
 
 
 
Biography[1]
 
Charles R. Nevad was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, on December 11, 1921, and lived in the area most of his life. After three and a half years of Army Air Force service he enrolled at the Academy of Arts in Newark, New Jersey. Nevad’s progression from life painting to abstract expressionism was accelerated by his twenty years of teaching.
 
After eleven years of self-struggle he had his first one man show at the Crest Gallery in New Hope, PA. During the early 1960s, Nevad exhibited regularly at the Crest Gallery, and had sold work successfully for over a decade. Other shows at that time included one and two person exhibits at Baron’s Art Gallery and the Aqunquin Gallery, Maine. Group shows at the Rutgers Jewish Center, The Iron Butterfly, New Jersey and the Orange Gallery in Connecticut.
 
From the 1960s onward, Nevad has achieved considerable acclaim for his teaching methods that explore the same concerns as his paintings. He lived, painted, taught painting and was a foster father at his studio home, 102 North Washington Avenue, Dunellen, NJ, until his death on February 7, 1990. His work has attracted private and institutional collectors, including the Kahoe Corporation and the Virginia Museum of Art.
 
Nevad’s former students Todd Bartel, Peter Eisner, and Phil Peery, and his niece, Joyce Hutter, are the founders of the Charles R. Nevad Foundation, created to honor the artist’s “lifelong vision to provide and empower children without parents an opportunity to learn about and create art through art programs and scholarships.” All donations to the Charles R. Nevad Foundation and the “Charlie’s Kids” scholarship fund are tax-deductible and support the foundation's programming.
 
 
 
 
 
 


[1] Note: this revised artist statement c. 1986 is very close to a statement that appears in The Sunday Home News, New Brunswick, N.J., Sunday, June 6, 1971. It is interesting to note that this statement held up for the artist for at least two decades with very few refinements. For the sake of posterity, the oldest known date for the statement was used. The revised copy was given to Thompson Gallery Director, Todd Bartel during the summer of 1986—along with several other statements and writings—on the eve of teaching at The Cambridge School of Weston for the first time.

[2] Note: Charlie Nevad rarely dated his writings and paintings. This date is based on a painting entitled The History of Blacks, and other paintings that explore similar topics and which were painted at that time.


[1] The above biography was printed and given to Todd Bartel by Charles R. Nevad in November of 1989, on a visitation to the artist’s studio to collaborate on a documentary video interview. Bartel was in enrolled in graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University and created the documentary in fulfillment of a seminar requirement to “present an artist of his choosing.” This biography would have been the most up to date biography created by Nevad at that time—before the artist’s death on February 7, 1990.
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    • Fig. 1. The Armory Show, Glessner House Museum, Chicago, IL, 1913

    • Fig. 2. Charlie Nevad—Light & Dark, Thompson Gallery, Weston, MA, 2016

The Cambridge School of Weston is a progressive high school for day and boarding students in grades 9–12 and PG. CSW's mission is to provide a progressive education that emphasizes deep learning, meaningful relationships, and a dynamic program that inspires students to discover who they are and what their contribution is to their school, their community and the world.