Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Richard Vincent (#3): Remembering Curmudgeonly Richard.

R.I.P., Richard Vincent: 11/28/36 -- 3/30/12.

Richard Vincent was a confounding character. Even the people who he was closest to found the painter/sculptor prickly and off-putting. One friend still refers to him as the “original curmudgeon.” But Vincent bestowed humor – in addition to heaping doses of agita – upon those he took a liking to. Several remember him as being generous with his limited resources, someone capable of being deft at the personal touch. Most certainly, he made his share of enemies as well, delivering his unpopular beliefs with a sneering laugh. Sometimes, just a sneer. “Photography isn't art,” he dismissively told me on one occasion – a milder example, for sure, of one of his opinionated quotes. Towards the very end of his life, he expressed a few regrets about having alienated people with his uncompromising attitude, his dismissive and sometimes hostile demeanor.

He was the kind of guy who wasn't invited to a friendly collector's house because she feared that Richard would complain about how his art was hung. The kind of guy who, if you innocently offered him $200 some years ago for one of the plethora of small pieces laying about his studio, would adamantly refuse because paying a lesser price, he insisted, would be unfair to his collectors and devalue his artwork. But Vincent was also the kind of artist who would spend twelve hours working on a minute detail within a single painting – and be pleased as punch if someone actually noticed it. 
It's said by art maven Fran Mishler that he was meticulous in his painterly technique; that his geometrically-patterned, carefully-calculated canvases display exquisite details, which often surface only after close study. Bubbling colors and surface modulations result from multiple layers of glazing, she says. Tiny lines and amorphous, almost human shapes are built upon vibrant backgrounds. “You should be able to turn a painting three different ways and have it work,” he once informed me.

Born outside of Chicago, his parents separated while he was a young boy. He was raised by his father, then by a grandmother in California. As a child, he was badly burned, the scars still visible on his neck and face decades later. Somewhere along the line, he also lost an eye (in the fire, as well?) – which has led to the speculation that his limited sight may have contributed to his unique vision upon canvas. 

Small in physical stature, he must have had grand ambitions. Vincent studied art first in San Francisco, before moving to New York City in 1956, where he continued his education at Cooper Union at Columbia University. In the Big Apple, Vincent apprenticed to sculptors Peter Agonstini and Seymour Lipton.

In 1967, he moved to Colorado, residing in Salida, the Aspen area, and finally Denver. An acquaintance of his from the '90s, who remembers him less than fondly, quipped via email, “He reminded me of some itinerant Frenchman from the 1920's somehow caught in godforsaken cowtown Denver.” 

The mystery remains: What happened to Vincent's 1970 statue commissioned by the May D&F company for Denver's Zeckendorf Plaza? It was placed beside noted architect's I.M. Pei's hyperbolic paraboloid--before Pei's work was appallingly torn down in the years to come. Where is the statue today?

Throughout the years, his art was sporadically shown – although, across the globe. He exhibited at Maruyama Gallery in Nagano, Japan; at the Blue Man Gallery in Prague; at Quantair Arts in Den Haag, the Netherlands; at Oz Architecture in Denver.

 Richard Vincent at his exhibition at Oz Architecture.

A notable, human interest anecdote: This web site helped reunite Vincent with family members of his, whose online research led them to my previous photos of Richard inside his studio, and allowed them to make contact with him after 50 years. A sense of closure for his elderly aunt, who had always wondered what had happened to her sister's boy. After a cousin's initial talk with him, she reported back to me, somewhat aghast, that Vincent didn't own a TV or a computer! Didn't own them willingly, I'm sure – rather than as an indication of him being the proverbial starving artist – I replied.

Dying of lung cancer in a hospice outside of Denver, though, his last statement to a friend was a paraphrase of television anchorman Walter Cronkite's closing remark: 

“That's the way it goes,” painter and sculptor Richard Vincent resignedly concluded.

Richard Vincent at his Grant Street studio.


Shannon Dickey said...

Great piece. I never knew the guy though I certainly remember him around the hill. Did he ever manage/work out of that artist/studio space off Colfax & Logan? The place Headbanger used to live?

Gary Dwyer said...

Even after all this time (1970) I feel compelled to comment on Richard taking credit for my work.

Richard only hustled the commission from the client. I designed and built the piece for May D&F / Zeckendorf Plaza. I have been chasing it with out success ever since its disappearance.

The May-D&f project, called "the Pointed Village" is featured in this book:
Because the book is ridiculously expensive I will send images for you to post.
Gary Dwyer

Kevin Fattor said...

Thanks for writing this piece. Richard was a good friend. I have a couple of his pieces displayed proudly in my house and I wish I could get another. He was incredibly opinionated and frequently infuriating. He gave incredibly thoughtful gifts. He had THE BEST stories ever, and if some of them are too good to be true, I couldn't care less. I miss him.

lilyelgato said...

Thanks for posting this. I was fortunate to know Richard back in the late '90s and early 00s until life took me away from the front range. I often hoped our lives would intersect again. He was incredibly generous with his stories, ideas and art, to those he connected with on a deeper level. I loved his cynicism, and his biting sense of humor. So glad he lives on through his art, and his memory, through this post.