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Completing the Picture


A detail from Bo Joseph’s DELUSIONS OF A PATRIARCH, one of his seven large works on paper on view at Sears-Peyton in NYC.

Artist Bo Joseph 92 PT begins his creative process by scavenging culturally and historically resonant artifacts – Roman helmets, erotic figures, Louis XIV chairs, even children’s clipart from Germany. “As long as I can remember I’ve been interested in objects from other cultures, whether ritual objects from tribal Africa, Sufi pottery or mandala paintings,” he noted in a recent interview.

Over the years, Joseph has developed a creative process he calls “un-collage,” which involves de-contextualizing and deconstructing, reassembling and re-contextualizing the hodge-podge of sources that inspires him. In the process, he has discovered amazing commonalities among things that at first glance seem to be entirely different. It’s his way of making sense of the world, and of making compelling works of abstract art.

Applying oil pastel, tempera and acrylic on a patchwork of paper, Joseph used his signature method to create the series of seven works on paper currently on view in Fragments of a Worldview, his latest solo show at the Sears-Peyton Gallery in New York City. The works on display – some of them nearly seven feet high – are from an ongoing series that has been the focus of his practice since 2009.

“I’m always trying to figure out what I know, and usually I figure out more what I don’t know than what I do know,” Joseph says. “The process of making the work is a way of visually asking that question for myself, looking at the world and trying to figure out my world view.” By working closely with fragmentary sources and literal fragments of objects, he finds that he’s intuitively able to connect the dots. “It’s like fragments of an incomplete sentence you can’t fully sound out, but when you hear the words something feels complete about it.”

Born in California and now based in New York, Joseph has returned to RISD several times as a visiting artist and teacher. He has been recognized with the Basil H. Alkazzi Award and has earned fellowships in painting from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. In 2011 he was the artist selected to design a table environment for the Brooklyn Museum’s Artists Ball.

Although primarily known as a painter, Joseph also draws, sculpts and makes artist’s books. He exhibits widely and is represented in permanent collections ranging from the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston to the Guilin Art Museum in Guilin, China. His work has been covered in Art in America, The New York Times and on National Public Radio. Fragments of a Worldview continues through April 5 at Sears-Peyton Gallery.

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tags: alumni, Painting

Painting foreground image 4
Phillip LeBlanc, The Raft, oil on canvas