Friday, March 21, 2008

Robert Dash, Sagg Main (The Road) Number 12 , 2006
Oil on paper 34 1/2 x 26 1/2 inches

Mark Borghi Fine Art

Bridgehampton: 631-537-7245

One of the best ways to get close to the psyche of Robert Dash is to walk through his intriguing garden and share a cocktail in his home overflowing with books! Since that might not be possible, I refer you to his book of gardening essays he has authored. In an excerpt from the book of essays, Dash refers to writer, Koethe which explains the name of the painting recently acquired by The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO. "The painting "Koethe" is a black rose. It is my "portrait of the poetry"of renown poet and philosopher, John Koethe" said Dash in a recent conversation.

John Koethe (pronounce: kay-tee) (b. 1945 -) has published several award-winning volumes of poetry. Many critics place him in the tradition of Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery, or, as Robert Huddleston noted in the Chicago Review, "poets who used landscape as a figure or setpiece through which to address an array of concerns from the personal to the social." Koethe is also a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, and his works include Domes, The Late Wisconsin Spring, Falling Water, and North Point North. He has also authored a collection of essays about poetry, Poetry at One Remove, as well as the academically-oriented The Continuity of Wittgenstein's Thought.

The writings are about “Madoo” which is artist and author, Robert Dash's residence and whimsical garden in Sagaponack on the outskirts of Bridgehampton. Described in the New York Times as "Robert Dash's ever-changing masterpiece," it has been pictured in many books and magazines and visited by garden lovers and artists from around the world. Dash, author/artist/gardener, describes his making of Madoo in the book from which I have included an excerpt below. It is a delightful read and will open the door to Dash’s soul. Dash as a painter as well as a writer is influenced by the movement of air and the effects of light and color. Any artist or gardener would be moved by his prose.

INTRODUCTION English Bones-American Flesh

My garden is at the far eastern end of Long Island, in New York State, in a town settled in 1656. It is set amidst fields continually farmed since that time, and one would need a maul to separate it from its profoundly English influences. Yet it might take a wedge struck with equal force to pry it from its continuous involvement with the patterns of abstract expressionism, a largely American form of painting.Within that pattern much else went toward the making of my garden: a love of Indian paths, rather like the secret walks small children make (which counts a lot for how one moves through my garden); an admiration of the roan beauties of abandoned farmland pierced by red cedars laced and tied by dog roses, honeysuckle, and brown, dry grass; the memory of a meadow of a single species of short, gray-leaved, flat-topped, open-flowered goldenrod, whose October display was feathered by hundreds of monarch butterflies. I have a stubborn Calvinist belief in utility, which causes me to plant vegetables among flowers, use herbs as borders and berry bushes as ornamentals. The brutish littoral climate leads me to choose only such plants as have infinite stamina. There are recollections of an ancestor who planted hollyhocks at the gate and lilacs out back-but all gardens are a form of autobiography. Moreover, as a painter, I am predelicted toward shape, mass, and form and have learned that the predominant color of all gardens is green and all the rest is secondary bedeckment. Finally, there is something else-a fierce addiction to privacy, which is why my windbreak is thicker than it need be. Madoo, which in an old Scots dialect means "My Dove," is the name of my garden of 1.98 acres, and I have been at it now since 1967. I have gone about it as I would a painting, searching for form rather than prefiguring it, putting it through a process more intuitive than intellectual. The blunders are there to learn from; the successes, more often than not, are the result of bold throws. I started from the house and went out toward the edges, often revising solid achievements until they seemed made of finer matter, like marks and erasures of work on paper, which sometimes may be torn and fitted again in collage.Although I like white on white (the 'Duchess of Edinburgh' clematis on a white fence over Rosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert'), and I like to whiten white by throwing autumn clematis (C. terniflora) over yew, 'Huldine' over holly, the major push is for green on green. I have never cared much for all-gray gardens or all-blue gardens; indeed, I am not certain that they are ever successful, color being too quixotic to control in that fashion, full of lurking betrayals, so that sky blue becomes sea blue or slate blue and then not blue at all. The air over my garden, from whose several points I can see the Atlantic surf, is full of a most peculiar double light, rising and falling, and is itself one of the heroes of my landscape, kinder to foliage and bark than to flowers. Wild air will always do the painting. I have increased the atmosphere's multiple shimmer by putting in three small ponds, above whose surfaces small mists sometimes gather. In contrast I have made darkness with a copse of twisted, pruned arctic willows and another of a spinney of fastigiate ginkgoes, the former underplanted with a mix of epimedium, woodruff, Japanese wood anemones, and ferns, and both washed with the littlest of spring bulbs. Paths are of brick, pebbles, or setts, or disks of telephone pole, or grass. Curves alternate with strict, straight geometries, the better to bound, heighten, and confine the predominantly relaxed, semiwild, superabundant atmosphere I like.A meadow garden has been quite successful. Formerly, it was lawn giving a rather dull view from the dining table, made duller by summer heat and inevitable drought. America is no climate for lawns. I did not starve the soil to make the meadow but plunged robust, thrusty perennials through the grass into pits carefully nourished with well-rotted manure and much peat moss. It is roughly oval with a backing of Nootka cypress, cryptomeria, and rhododendron, whose darks perfectly outline the brighter foil of foliage.To my way of seeing, a garden is not a succession of small rooms or little effects but one large tableau, whose elements are inextricably linked to the accomplishment of the entire garden, just as in painting all passages conduce to the effect of the whole. Lack of keyed strength in any one of them may lower the pitch and thrust of the finished canvas.A muting of a too-perfect area is often in order, no matter how lovely it might be. Just so I have found 'Silver Moon' clematises are too huge a cynosure to be acceptable to the general garden, and I have taken them out. One can very definitely have too much of a good thing, unless it be some grand groundcover like Lamium 'Nancy', whose very modest performance excludes it from the egregious. Subtlety is always more alluring. The quieter painting enters the heart and stays, when one of tremendous impact has long since faded away.I do not paint in the way that I garden or garden as I would employ the brush, although the process is often the same-both are arts of the wrist, the broadest, largest sort of signature, if you will, highly idiosyncratic, the result of much doing, much stumbling, and highly intuited turns and twists before everything fits and adheres to the scale of one's intention. A good tree must often be moved to a more reticent spot when it begins to dominate and thus ruin the total orchestration. Beautiful tunes don't end up as symphonies, nor do witticisms write books. Certain flowers may emblazon a room but be abusive to a fine garden. For that reason and that of stamina and the ability to take the brunt of the climate (I am in Zone 7a, whose average lowest temperature is five to zero degrees Fahrenheit), I choose older varieties of the plant kingdom, whose foliage and blossom are, more often than not, circumspect and discreet.I am now becoming more geometric. In front of the winter house and winter studio I have just installed a brick path I call a view-swiper. It is 120 feet long (flying out to the potato fields and to the ocean, bringing all that fine view inside the purview of the garden as if it were mine), 8 feet wide at the near end, 6 at the far, with 80 roses ('Fru Dagmar Hastrup') on the sides. The far border will have other, taller rugosa roses and daylilies mixed with teasels. The site is but a narrow spur attached to my property, surrounded by changing crops whose patterns of growth and tilling are overwhelmingly seductive, requiring only the simplest sort of anchor to moor the peninsula.My canvases now have changed, too, and are rather like foliant form held very close to the eye. Both gestures, then, are new for me, and the feeling from both is a bit scary, akin to that of someone in the middle of a new high-wire act performing over a slowly withdrawing net. The air of gardens and paintings now seems to me to be filled with a wild, deliciously cold oxygen through which I can still see the first plain view of the working barns I converted three decades ago, gray above a blowing field of grass. That verdure, it seems to me, was the very soul of the place "working backwards, year by year," as John Koethe wrote in "The Near Future," until it "reached the center of a landscape."The English bones with which I began now seem entirely covered by what I have done, but that is the way of flesh. Copyright (c) 2000 by Robert Dash. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Robert Dash was born in downtown Manhattan in 1934 Robert Dash was home schooled for most of his young life due to ongoing illnesses. Never formally studying painting, he developed a strong interest in the abstract expressionists, particularly De Kooning, in college. He attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, in part to escape the city.After college he spent a year in Italy and upon returning to New York City worked for Arts and then Art News, while painting at night. He had his first show in 1960. Since then, he has painted, written and gardened near Sagg Pond on eastern Long Island, at residence among the changeable celebration of plantings, paths, views and architectural expressions of Madoo, a much-admired garden conservatory of his own making. A longtime Hamptons resident, Dash’s works have been exhibited in one-man exhibitions in Holland, England, and Germany as well as numerous major American art galleries. He also participated in many group exhibitions including the Museum of Modern Art, Yale University and the Fine Arts Gallery University of Missouri. His works are also featured in museum collections including the Modern Art Museum, Munich; Guggenheim Museum; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts; and the Corcoran Gallery.

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