Gregory Gillespie: rorschaching

October 14 - November 21, 2015

SHFAP is thrilled to present our first solo exhibition of paintings by Gregory Gillespie (1936-2000). The works are drawn from the artist’s estate. This exhibition examines Gillespie’s output from the last ten years of his career, when his work was increasingly influenced by Buddhism and Tantric philosophy and imagery. He combined an obsessive Western oil painting technique with elements from Mughal miniature painting and Tibetan mandalas, often making use of doubling and mirror imagery, reminiscent of the Rorschach.

Gillespie was a visionary realist, known for his intensely detailed still lives, portraits and above all, formidable self-portraits. His earliest exhibited works were ferocious, often sexualized, figurative scenes, painted during his stay in Italy in the 60s. They were exhibited first with Forum Gallery in 1970. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden presented a major survey exhibition of Gillespie’s work in 1977.

Gillespie combined masterly oil painting with photographic elements and Xerox transfer, His contemporaries, such as Rauschenberg and Warhol, utilized photographic transfer techniques in their process, Gillespie’s masking of the photographic elements in his work, camouflaged under oil painting, imbues his use of photography with a subversive, entropic quality. He layered imagery and pattern animating tiny hidden figures in the details. The painter Matt Bollinger observed that it, “… reminded me of the movement in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, when the camera careens from the technicolor suburb, down through the green grass, into an underbelly of writhing black beetle bodies.” Gillespies obsession with the body prefigures the concerns of a variety of contemporary artists from John Currin and Lucien Freud to Ana Mendieta and Marlene Dumas. His mix of body obsession, abstraction, photography, clinical observation and spiritual preoccupations feeding into challenging occasionally scabrous sexuality anticipates the multidimensional outrageousness of much contemporary art.

Gillespie was born in Roselle Park, New Jersey, into a strict Roman Catholic household. Early themes of sin and repression would go on to haunt him for the rest of his life: “The paintings are religious … because they come out of repression. They come out of the impulse to do sacrilege, which is a religious impulse.”

Gillespie attended Cooper Union and later The San Francisco Art Institute, gaining exposure to Abstract Expressionism and Bay Area Figuration. Although he developed an admiration for such abstract artists as Pollock and Diebenkorn, he was ever the outlier and struck his own course. “I wanted to tell a story he said.” In 1962, Gillespie received a Fulbright-Hayes grant to live and work in Florence. Deeply impressed by the Renaissance masters and the intricate brushwork of Carlo Crivelli, in particular, which matched his own obsessive style, he remained in Italy until 1970. Upon returning to the United States, he settled permanently in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

Gillespie‘s work was surveyed in a traveling exhibition organized by the Georgia Museum of Art in 1999/2000. His work is represented in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston among others. This is the first exhibition of Gillespie’s work in New York in five years.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog with an essay by Saul Ostrow. Please contact the gallery at 917-861-7312 or for further information or images.