Dennis Kleidon’s “Taliesin” and “Poinciana” Paintings at Art Space 349 (Palm Desert, CA) and Art Wynwood, Miami

Dennis Kleidon’s “Dialogues and Revelations” show at Art Space 349, El Paseo, California,
and NYC Walter Wickiser Gallery at Art Wynwood in Miami

By Lorien Suárez-Kanerva

From February 2nd to March 15th, Dennis Kleidon’s paintings will be exhibited at “Dialogues and Revelations” at Art Space 349 in El Paseo, Palm Desert, California, and at Art Wynwood in Miami from February 14-18 at the Walter Wickiser Gallery booth. The exhibitions showcase Kleidon’s conceptual series, including “Textures of Taliesin,” “Unleashed,” and his most recent “Poinciana” paintings. He formed part of the color field and abstract expressionist movements of the 60s. Of his contemporaries, he shared an affinity with the work of Kline, DeKooning, Motherwell, and Albers. Kleidon is an emeritus professor from the University of Akron, Ohio. He trained as an architect and designer and is also a classically trained pianist.

From observations at Taliesin West in Phoenix, Arizona, the artist has created a conceptual framework that dialogues with Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural approach and use of natural materials. As he describes,

The boulders, surrounded by concrete, struck me with their beauty and texture. It was clear how these natural materials reflected Wright’s respect for nature, truth, and beauty. The boulders make Taliesin West part of its site in the most literal way possible, organic architecture to its core.

Kleidon integrated a set of rectangular minimalist marbled textured backgrounds that frame the central space of the painting, much like man-made architectural walls. An outer rectangle surrounds an inner one. Each is composed of two distinct shades of a singular hue. The rectilinear shapes anchor brushstrokes that can evoke calligraphy where gesture bridges into language that would appear decipherable at the heart of the painting.

Unleashed #10, Acrylic on Canvas, 37.5” x 37.5”, 2017
Unleashed #10, Acrylic on Canvas, 37.5” x 37.5”, 2017

The artist observes that “the textures create a ‘wall’ for mid-field geometric shapes painted next, like a building in shadow or the geometry of an architectural plan.” These background rectangular fields of color are painstakingly crafted. “I work back and forth with overlays of color until I am satisfied with the hue and complexity of texture. This textural background is echoed in a geometric mid-ground and culminates in a bold series of brushstrokes.”

The artist’s gestural markings spring forth from a static framework to reflect the explosive nature of the creative spirit. The unfurling of brushed multi-colored streaks finds release from the encompassing housing. Each swirl of brush strokes is a completed singular motion by the artist’s hand. Each pigment selection remains beside the other as a tiered arc. Kleidon’s paintings draw on distinctive blues, reds, yellows, whites, and blacks, each appearing in the landscape.

Like rainbows, the brushstrokes move upwards and sideways within the rectangular tableau. Most arcs of the brush reveal a tracing of intact hues, yet the strokes take on a nuanced and muddier field of coloration when superimposed.

Poinciana #10, Acrylic on Canvas, 31.5” x 41.5”, 2023
Poinciana #10, Acrylic on Canvas, 31.5” x 41.5”, 2023

Distinctions in the predominance of particular hues and the outward expansion of the gestural brushstrokes appear and emphasize the nature of the artist’s manifested expression.
As a series, “Poinciana” holds a singular chromatic power as red transforms the neutral background into swirling flames. The progression reveals the gathering range and scope red holds as it consumes more of its rectangular enclosure gesturally. The moody, dimly lit NYC nightclubs where Ahmad Jamal’s jazz piano played and the noted musician’s music were pivotal influences to Kleidon’s work. The title is based on Jamal’s famous song and album, “Poinciana.”

Poinciana #13, Acrylic on Canvas, 31.5” x 41.5”, 2023
Poinciana #13, Acrylic on Canvas, 31.5” x 41.5”, 2023

“Taliesin,” in contrast, is still ignited at its core but pirouettes in a three-dimensional gestural fulcrum like “Poinciana”, yet without reaching the outer edges. The gestural spirit here remains more tacitly enclosed within its boulder and cement landscape. Each rectangular field’s marbled pattern becomes darker in tones of blue. At its core, it’s a deep Prussian blue, almost black, that sits as an arrangement akin to Josef Albers’s color field paintings. The streaks of color in the “Taliesin” paintings distinctly differ in color sensibility. White overpowers the reds as a gradient accompanied by a lesser degree of red, blue, black, and yellow. The movement of the strokes is arched and unfurling as gestural striations. The strokes don’t stray too far afield from the center, with distinct wisps that extend outward with a reduced range of color ̶white and orange or white and blue. At points, the paintbrush appears to have lifted off the surface, breaking the flow of the paintbrush’s movement.

Taliesin Unleashed #1, Acrylic on Canvas, 49.5” x 37.5”, 2020
Taliesin Unleashed #1, Acrylic on Canvas, 49.5” x 37.5”, 2020

I wanted to bring the beauty of these Taliesin textures and their earthy sienna, umber, and gray hues into my paintings…and soon investigated the touches of red, crimsons, and oranges…A close examination of the boulders reveals additional, unexpected colors ̶blues, turquoise and grays.

The distinctions in the color range and gestural scope of movement in “Poinciana” and “Taliesin” bring forward the heart of Kleidon’s work’s framework.

Three elements rise to the surface, critical to the impact of the paintings – the composition and movement of the background texture, inspired by the surface of the boulders of the Taliesin walls, the geometry in the middle ground like architectural forms within the natural environment, and the final expressive strokes of the brush capturing the creative spirit.

Ultimately, Kleidon reflects upon Wright’s statement that “Integrity is the first law of nature and spirit” by further reflecting on his artwork conceptually. “My painting seems to express a similar structure of values, of enlightened ways to see and respond to the universe.” He works to create paintings where all the compositional elements with their distinct details achieve a unifying form of balance that draws inspiration from the beauty of nature. It’s an aspiration that Kleidon has extended towards his creative way of being. “I will probably continue trying to achieve that sense of balance my entire life.” In this light, his artwork reflects an ongoing aspiration to bring into alignment both actions and intentions toward a unifying whole.

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