Lawrence Fine Art

Name : Joe Novak
Biography :

Joe Novak’s focus throughout his career has been the exploration of color and light. His artistic background and work link him closely with the first generation abstract expressionists of the New York School. Major influences include Pollock and Rothko, and his mentors, Peter Busa and Esteban Vicente, whom he met and befriended during the eighties while living and painting in East Hampton.

 In his East Hampton years, Novak exhibited regularly at Vered Gallery, and participated in juried and invitational shows at the Parrish Art Museum and Guild Hall Museum. In a review for The New York Times of a 1987 invitational show at Guild Hall, the art critic Phyllis Braff wrote: “Joe Novak’s emotional uses of resonating color and light in the form of huge single color spheres that spill beyond their rectangular formats are easily the most dramatic images here. They draw the viewer with their massive size and startling luminescence, turning into hypnotic, meditative surfaces.” 

 During the eighties and nineties, Novak painted large monochromatic color field canvases with tonal gradations and soft edges that infuse them with a meditative quality and a sense of movement. When illuminated they become glowing surfaces of color and light. His primary goal was to provide the viewer with an experience and sensations associated in viewing a predominant color. The art critic Peter Frank has written of this work: “One step beyond Rothko’s, Novak’s paintings gently force the eye to breathe color.”

 In 1990, Novak moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lived and worked for the next 15 years while continuing and expanding his light and color explorations. During the nineties, Novak worked on a project in which he created computerized programs of changing light levels on a selection of his large paintings, dramatically illustrating the effect of light changes on color perception.

 Novak’s work drew the attention of Timothy Rub, currently Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and past director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. Rub became the moving force behind Novak’s 2002 Hood Museum exhibition “Joe Novak: Paintings 1993-1999”. His introduction in the accompanying catalogue compared Novak’s paintings to those of Mark Rothko and Morris Louis, concluding “...this is not a matter of superficial resemblance but of a spiritual kinship with those who believed in the language of abstraction and the power of painting to offer the viewer an experience that is, in essence, transcendental.”

Novak’s body of work is extensive and includes paintings on canvas, paper and panel as well as monotypes, drawings, assemblages, mixed media and prints. In some of his smaller pieces he has often worked in series, focusing on a particular medium for years. Among these are “Meditations” (color pencil drawings), “Voices” and “Voices 2” (color aquatint etchings), “Echoes” (painting assemblages with minerals) and “Colors” (350 miniature panel paintings).

 Novak continues to create art into his 85th year, placing more emphasis on gesture and color interactions in his recent paintings, often with musical allusions.

 Novak’s work is widely held in numerous public and private collections, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Cincinnati Art Museum, Weisman Art Museum, UC Berkeley Art Museum, New Mexico Museum of Art, Hood Museum of Art, Palm Springs Art Museum, among others.


His paintings from 2012-2014 will be featured at Lawrence Fine Art in an exhibition titled “Joe Novak: Recent Paintings” opening June 25, 2015. This event marks Novak’s first exhibition in East Hampton in over 25 years.

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