Roland Reiss interview in HYPERALLERGIC by Lita Barrie
"Roland Reiss on His Shape-Shifting Career," May 25, 2018
May 25, 2018
LOS ANGELES — At 89 years old, still lit up with curiosity, Roland Reiss has been an inspiration for SoCal artists who draw from his innovative ways of making and teaching art. Two current exhibitions at Diane Rosenstein Gallery and Claremont Museum of Art (where he was formerly the chair of the art department) examine the legacy of a vanguard artist who has found surprising ways to explore the dynamics of visual perception. As early as the 1960s Reiss abandoned the heroic brushstrokes of Abstract Expressionism to explore plastic arts, and in the 1970s he turned to philosophic questions about the ways in which visual meaning is constructed by the viewer’s involvement. His paintings and sculptures are enticing visual puzzles, filled with clues the viewer must solve.
Reiss examines painting as a sculptural object; similarly, he examines sculpture from a painterly impulse, as an exploration of color. He is known for playing with scale, using cinematic framing and fracturing his narratives. The viewer peers into the miniaturize worlds of his dioramas like a giant voyeur, but looks directly at human-scale, in-your-face stylized flowers in his recent paintings, which critic James Scarborough writes are “not still lives but Vanitas painting for a digital age.”
Reiss came into prominence in the 1970s and ’80s, being featured in the 1975 Whitney Biennial and Documenta 7 and on multiple occasions at LACMA. While he has since been relatively under the radar, he has had recent notable exhibitions, including a 2014 retrospective at Cal State University and a 2015 show of his beautiful floral paintings at Diane Rosenstein Gallery.
I sat down with Reiss at his studio the Brewery, an artists’ colony in Downtown Los Angeles, where he spoke about his long and prolific career and how to this day he challenges himself “to put everything I have learned about painting into a painting.”