John Gibson is a native of Massachusetts, born in Boston in 1958. He attended the Rhode Island School of design (where he earned a BFA in 1980), before earning his post-graduate degree from the prestigious master’s program at Yale. Gibson had his first one-man show at the University of Massachusetts in 1984, and he began showing in group exhibitions in the Boston and New York areas in the late 1980s. In the early 1990s Gibson’s paintings began to focus on pyramidal compositions of spheres resembling children’s playground balls, decorated in the manner of colorful soccer balls. Executed in oil on wooden panel, these pieces began to attract generous critical praise for Gibson from the pages of the Boston Globe, the Partisan Review, and the New Yorker, among others. Gibson’s paintings are filled with subtle yet provocative disjunctions, which challenge the viewer’s initial perceptions of the pieces. While these images would seem at first to be fairly simple atmospheric, realistic renderings of colorful balls, a closer examination will reveal that the surfaces of Gibson’s paintings are deeply scored by the artist in geometric patterns that sometimes conform to, and in other instances defy, the outlines of the spheres rendered in paint.
An invisible substructure is suggested in these incisions, which also serve to reinforce the physicality of the painting. Some pieces also include incised and/or painted suggestions of shadowy architectural spaces (arches, hallways, shallow niches) in which the balls are placed. The scale of the objects rendered is ultimately unclear: the balls could be of the large, inflatable type, but they alternatively suggest the density of much smaller decorated wooden croquet balls (a disjunction heightened by the scale of the paintings, which range from larger-than-life to miniatures of only 10 by 6 inches or less). Additionally, the multiple-ball, open-pyramid arrangements depicted in Gibson’s paintings are impossible structures, suggesting that however realistically they may be rendered, they are in fact constructs of the artist’s imagination, straddling the divide between representation and geometric abstraction. John Gibson’s work is currently to be found in numerous corporate and public collections around the country, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, University of Massachusetts, the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the New York Public Library.
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