David Novros — on His 80th Birthday


David Novros in front of Salidas, 2014–2016, oil and marble dust on canvas, Museum Wiesbaden, gift from the artist 2016, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

David Novros is celebrating his 80th birthday today. And we are celebrating with him!

His work has fascinated us ever since we first exhibited it at Museum Wiesbaden in 2009. It retains its hold on us, above all because David Novros has always forged his own path in painting. In the 1960s, like his colleagues he tested the limits of painting. During that time he developed his ‘shaped canvases’: abstract paintings on irregularly shaped (i.e., not rectangular) canvases. But not long thereafter he began to create angular fiberglass works coated in shimmering iridescent pigments that show different colours depending on the fall of light. When in 1970 his friend Donald Judd asked him to paint a fresco at his home and studio on Spring Street (SoHo, New York), Novros found his calling. From then on, he was concerned with ‘painted places’: in other words, site-specific works that take the surrounding environment into account and respond to it. It goes without saying that this was not exactly compatible with the art market. (Murals are a difficult sell for gallery exhibitions and even art fairs, and the market for site-specific works is extremely limited.) In consequence, over the years the buzz around him died down, despite the fact that he was continuously active and completed numerous projects, both in public spaces and museums, as well as for private individuals.

The quality of his paintings certainly did not suffer as a result. Even if, over the course of a few decades, the popular contributor to the Moon Museum became a rather reclusive artist, he still managed to go his own way — and perhaps it was precisely his independence from the art market that gave him the freedom to do so. Especially since, in recent years, his works have once again been presented to a broader public, and can thus be appreciated for their exceptional quality. As part of their current collection presentation, the Hamburger Kunsthalle has dedicated a room to his work.

So too has Museum Wiesbaden, where Salidas has been on display since 2017. Novros developed this work specifically for the exhibition space: the high-ceilinged atrium inside the museum. Already in 2014 the artist began to make sketches for this multi-panel painting. For a sketchbook he repurposed an old hospital register — or, more precisely, a hospital discharge book (salidas being the Spanish term for “departures”). Hence the work title. He made drawings between the lines of the register. Other influences include Romanesque and Moorish sacred architecture, but also Central American art — an inspiration that resurfaces throughout his oeuvre. This multi-part painting is reminiscent of a winged altarpiece, even though no specific religious theme is invoked. But it is notable that, like an altarpiece, all the colours and forms in the lower region (the predella, in our analogy) are also represented elsewhere, in the work above. Despite the varying colour schemes found in the individual panels, overall the work achieves a harmony of colour and form.

Novros painted Salidas in oil using a high concentration of pigment, to which he added marble dust. The result is a matte, open colour impression. The artist applied countless layers of paint in a lengthy process that also involved protracted drying times. He thereby attained a colour impression more reminiscent of a mural or even a fresco than the typical painting on canvas.

David Novros, Portable Cave, 1975, metal and oil paint, on loan from the artist, taken in the crypt of the Oratorio San Lupo, Bergamo, Italy, 2018, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021
David Novros, Portable Cave, 1975, metal and oil paint, on loan from the artist, taken in the crypt of the Oratorio San Lupo, Bergamo, Italy, 2018, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

In this work Novros took up themes that have interested him ever since he made his first fresco in 1970: painting for a particular place, painting that is a part of the architecture and at the same time far more than decoration.

We are pleased — and yes, also proud — to have six paintings and numerous drawings by David Novros in our collection at Museum Wiesbaden. This includes two donations from private collectors and an acquisition that was realized with the support of the Hessische Kulturstiftung. It’s hard to believe that ‘our’ artist is already turning 80 years old – after all, it was only 15 years ago that we ‘rediscovered’ him. In conversation, however — whether about baseball, football, or art — his vast reservoir of knowledge always come to light, making it clear that we are indeed dealing with one of the great painters of American Modernism.

We wish you a happy birthday and all the best, dear David!

Dr. Jörg Daur
Deputy Director
Custos of modern and contemporary art

This website uses cookies. By visiting the site you agree to this. More information.