Visual art in Northeast Ohio is made up of a wide variety of approaches, subjects and materials, which is not unexpected, seeing that it reflects the state of art nationally, even globally. Unlike periods in the past, where there was a dominant movement, such as Abstract Expressionism or Pop Art, we’re currently in an era of ‘pluralism,’ where no overriding thematic direction seems to take precedent over another. (Maybe it’s too close to discern in the moment it takes place?) This lack of conforming influence can be seen as an exciting and healthy state of affairs, because it provides a greater sense of freedom in art that can lead to more unpredictable results. It can also present a challenge for artists to find a distinct and meaningful voice when so much seems possible, but so much of the art of the past still echoes in our minds. Mark Keffer Class of 88'
So. Central Rain 30 x 40”, Acrylic, gesso. latex, enamel, charcoal & gel medium on canvas, 2018
One Northeast Ohio artist that reflects a kind of individual ‘pluralism’ is Eric Rippert. He has extensively explored photography as a medium and more recently has developed several individual directions within painting. His work is not bound by a signature style, which at times can be a somewhat risky proposition. In the wrong hands, it can reflect a lack of seriousness or focused development. When done in a compelling way, as in the hands of Rippert, the sense of freedom and genuine development is refreshing. The wide range of materials used in his work also reflects a desire to avoid limitations in the creative process.
Within a single painting several different sensibilities can take place. The painting ‘Life and How to Live It’, for instance, contains characteristics of gestural abstraction, geometric abstraction, a loosely representational figurative element with Fauvist coloration, a Pop-like flavor and an almost surrealist configuration of parts. This seems to be a particularly contemporary approach in that the painting isn’t specific to one stylistic tendency, but it also isn’t an arbitrary hodgepodge of past styles; it is a first-hand experience that employs an understanding and residual, osmosis-like, relationship to art history. Gravity and humor are entangled, and all the various impulses come together in a convincing and seemingly effortless balance.
Life and How to Live It acrylic, gesso, charcoal, enamel paint, latex paint, ink, gloss gel medium on canvas, 30 x 40”, 2019
The titles of Rippert’s paintings are frequently taken from those of popular (though not exactly mainstream) songs. This is an intriguing m.o. that reflects a kinship to expression in another medium. It might imply that painting can be seen as a kind of visual music. It can also indicate that meaning in art does not need to be addressed in literal terms. In this way, viewing a painting is more akin to viewing natural phenomena. (What, for instance, is the ‘meaning’ of a sunset or night sky?) The viewer plays an increased role in such an approach, regarding the nature of meaning. The artist isn’t leading the viewer to specific conclusions.
From his website: “Eric Rippert is a visual artist mining poignant personal imagery; investigating those particular remembrances that never appear in full focus, triggering intuition, and exploring the complex intersections of individual and collective memory. Eric considers his work a constant exploration into what it means to be human.
The Man Whose Head Expanded 48 x 60”, Acrylic, gesso, oil pastels, charcoal, latex paint, enamel paint, gloss gel medium, graphic on canvas, 2018
The Killing Moon spray paint on canvas, 48 x 60”, 2019
His work resides in the permanent collections of Cleveland Museum of Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Progressive Art Collection, Cleveland Clinic Art Program, and Dalad Collection at Worthington Yards. Exhibited internationally, Eric has had solo exhibitions at Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Progressive Art Collection, and Maria Neil Art Project, along with curated shows at Cleveland Museum of Art; Minnesota Center for Photography; City Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic; and Ludwig Museum in Budapest, Hungary. He received his MFA in Visual Art from Vermont College of Fine Arts and his BFA in Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. For years, Eric practiced commercial photography in New York before relocating to the Midwest where he taught photography at University of Akron, Oberlin College and Baldwin-Wallace University. Eric began to exhibit his paintings in 2016 with shows at American Greetings, BAYarts, University Hospitals Triennial Invitational, CAN 18 Triennial, and the 2019 Biennial Juried Exhibition at Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery. He can be found most every day at 78th Street Studios in Cleveland, Ohio.”