Artist brings abstract visions to SMC

The doors of the Barrett Art Gallery at The Broad Stage opened on Saturday to reveal the abstract works of Los Angeles artist Scot Heywood.

The gallery show, titled "Scot Heywood: A Survey Of Large Paintings 2006-2013," showcased Heywood's smooth yet direct works which embody the abstract spirit with their defiance of narrative or convention.

The paintings on display at the gallery represent his geometric work and frames with square divisions of color where the viewer must think about what it says to him or her.

Like one of his great heroes, Jackson Pollock, Heywood said he wants the viewers to feel and imagine what naturally develops in their mind when looking at his work. He said he does not want to spoon-feed what the painting is saying.

"It's contemplative; don't we need that now?" he said, discussing the relevance of abstract art in today's world.

"We need contemplation," he said. "We need some existential possibility in our lives. We need jazz music. We need poetry. We need dance, painting that allows the viewer to move into a deep place."

Heywood's reputation also resides in the fact that he is mostly self-taught. He took a few classes at the University of California, Los Angeles, but did not consider art as a profession until 1977 when he "went complete non-narrative painting," he said.

"I've been an abstract painter for 40 years," Heywood said. "This is a long, long evolution. I was an abstract expressionist when I was very young. My teachers were Jackson Pollock not literally, but the people I looked up to were the New York abstract expressionists."

Heywood said he believes today's students should rediscover the era of the Beat poets and jazz that both originated from spontaneous, unconventional creativity.

"It's a potent time," he said. "Everything's gotten so commercial. I find too much conceptualism in modern art these days. There's still too much narrative, too much indulgence in self. It's very egoist painting."

Stephen Robert Johns, a fellow artist, and Jacob Samuel, a professional printer, were attendees at the gallery who both said they know and admire Heywood and his work.

"The work is terrific; he's a great painter," Samuel said. "This affords students the opportunity to slow down and really look at a painting. These are not the kinds of images most people are interested in looking at, which pop out of video games or popular culture."

"I have a deep appreciation for his compositions," said John. "His use of color palettes is impressive."

Santa Monica College art professor and gallery director Marian Winsryg emphasized that Heywood is an example of the kind of high caliber artists SMC is now bringing to its halls, which is unusual for a community college.

Winsryg said shows like this exhibit can be beneficial for students by exposing them to abstract paintings, encouraging them to acquire a sense for galleries, and exploring other works of abstract artists.

Like great ancient cave paintings, modern abstract art is not just a collection of empty lines and shapes, she said.

"Basically, it's about trying to talk to your fellow man," Winsryg said.

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