Art as supplication, new book “Otto Donald Rogers” released
Toronto, Ontario, 13 November 2007 (Rob O’Flanagan, CBNS) — Every work of art Otto Rogers has set out to make began with a sense of great anticipation. “Within the act of creation lies the anticipation of assistance,” said Rogers, 72, who is the subject of a major new art book from Radius Books, a new publisher based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.Otto Donald Rogers art books against the backdrop of his latest paintings at David Mirvish Books
Otto Donald Rogers was released this month. “It’s a wonderful thing to feel as if you are being assisted from some power outside of yourself – to feel moved,” said the artist, speaking of the potential spiritual incentive that lies hidden in the act of painting.
“I could never anticipate what the work would be like and I still can’t. I always look forward to what the outcome of that assistance might be.”
Rogers’ artistic momentum began at the age of 17, shortly after leaving his hometown in Saskatchewan to begin his artistic education, first at the Saskatoon Teachers’ College and then at the University of Wisconsin.
The vast openness of the Saskatchewan landscape maintains a symbolic presence in his paintings and constructions, which owe much to the visual tutelage of the great painters of the 20th century – George Braque, Kurt Schwitters, Antonio Tapies and others.
In America in the mid-1950s, Rogers first encountered the works of the modernist masters of the day, people like Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell, who would influence his own approach to painting.
It was around the same time that he first encountered the Baha’i Faith, introduced to him by his future wife, Barbara. He embraced the religion. His religious and artistic practices have carried on a symbiotic relationship for nearly half a century.
“The intoxication of the natural world experienced as a child now combined with the impressions of contemporary art to produce a transforming effect,” he writes in the compelling essay that accompanies Otto Donald Rogers, a 177-page book which features coloured reproductions of works completed over the past decade.
Copies of the book – the first printing is limited to 1,200 copies – will be distributed to about 300 libraries throughout North America. Visual artist, art critic and essayist Sky Glabush, wrote the introduction to the book.
“He is modern in the idealistic and avant-garde sense that Picasso is modern or in the promissory brightness of Kandinsky, or the utopian idealism of Mondrian,” writes Glabush.
“Rogers has often described his efforts in the studio as a form of worship. It is not as if his work is emulating prayer, or illustrating a spiritual state; rather, the act of painting itself, when striving towards perfection, becomes a form of devotion.”
Otto Donald Rogers at the November 7th Mirvish Books Launch of his new book “For Rogers, art is a supplication, the highest expression of which is unity.”
Widely recognized as one of Canada’s leading painters, Rogers’ legacy as a modernist figure in this country and abroad will be enhanced by the new book, said photographer, writer and educator Darius Himes, co-founder of Radius Books, which is dedicated to publishing books with broad artistic and cultural value.
Himes and Rogers met about 15 years ago while the two were serving at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel. “I was a young photographer, someone who had just come out of art school, and he was very encouraging and influential in terms of getting me to think more about art and the effect of images,” said Himes.
About three years ago, the two reconnected and began talking about the creation of a “small catalogue.” The project grew to become a major book, and discussion is underway to produce additional books on Rogers’ work.
“Otto’s essay is actually quite monumental, in that it addresses some of things he has tried to address in his life over the last 45 years,” said Himes. “I love his work. There is a certain stillness in it, a meditative quality that is more about quietude. But there is also a great deal of dynamism in it, as well.
“The central issue for me in his approach is this idea of taking diverse elements and creating some sort of unity with them.” Himes summarized the artist’s staggering output, saying Rogers has mounted the equivalent of a solo exhibition each year for the past 45 years.
“And he has continued to evolve,” said Himes. “His work has become very dynamic.”
Having taught art for 30 years – encouraging countless aspiring young artists to pursue creative work – Rogers said he is himself a student of art.
“I just came back from New York, where I spent two weeks looking at art,” he said, “I came back with 35 books. I now have 1,200 books in my art library, and still I’m buying more.” Rogers lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
To learn more about the book visit Radius Books and look under Books, Fall 2007.