November 8-January 4
This story was featured in the November 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art November 2013 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
At the opening reception of Ron Hicks’ latest show at Gallery 1261, you can certainly expect a fascinating crowd—not just mingling with each other in the gallery but also in the two dozen oil paintings thronging its walls. “I like to paint people interacting with other people,” says the 48-year-old, Denver-based artist. “I like the emotive quality that brings.” The show opens on November 8 with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m.
That quality, in turn, draws people into Hicks’ works, which the artist says range in price from around $5,000 for 9-by-12-inch canvases to more than $30,000 for his larger works. “Ron isn’t just painting figures and scenes,” explains Denver art advisor Rose Fredrick, a longtime fan of the painter. “I compare his ability to communicate what is unspoken between people with that of Edward Hopper.”
You could also add to that list Rembrandt, Diego Velázquez, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, Edgar Degas, and Nicolai Fechin. All of these painters have inspired in Hicks a love of portraying the human form that traces back to his early childhood in Ohio and his studies at the Columbus College of Art and Design, the Colorado Institute of Art (now the Art Institute of Colorado), and the Art Students League of Denver. “I guess I’m a romanticist at heart,” he says, summing up his personal stylistic blend of impressionism, representation, and realism.
To romantic ends, Hicks strives to eliminate from his canvases any elements that may root a scene in a particular time or place. “I strip away things that are immediately identifiable as the present, like sunglasses,” he says. “I take a timeless approach. A scene could have been yesterday or it could have happened a hundred years ago.”
Take, for example, AND THEN, THEY EXHALED, a scene in which a young woman and man sit together at a white-clothed table. Their muted clothing and tousled hair could make them American urban hipsters of today or Parisian café habitués in the late 19th century. And their solemn, thoughtful expressions—not quite looking at each other and not quite looking away—could be interpreted in many ways. “‘What’s happening between the two of them?’ is the sort of question I often get,” says Hicks. “And I’ll ask right back, ‘Well, what do you think it’s about?’ If there’s something you’re drawn to in one of my paintings, I’m not going to force a meaning on you.”
Even a solitary figure invites such speculation. LEMON TWIST, for example, offers a full-length image of an elegant young woman, cocktail glass in hand, standing alone—though a waiter’s figure retreats in the background. Her intriguing expression and bare shoulders may bring to mind one of the most thought-provoking portraits of the last 130 years: Sargent’s PORTRAIT OF MADAME X, which scandalized the Paris Salon of 1884. While Hicks’ painting probably won’t incite any scandal, it does encourage speculation: Who is she? Why is she drinking alone? Whom might she be waiting for?
“I like my works to be open-ended, not so definite,” Hicks concludes. Which is likely to spark lively discussion when his latest group of paintings goes on view. —Norman Kolpas
Featured in the November 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art November 2013 print issue or digital download
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