Keith Mayerson


Red River (Raintree County)


This is a picture of Montgomery Clift, the great pre-method actor, from the last scene in the underrated film Raintree County, where he plays a hapless union soldier, suffering for his misbegotten wife played by his real-life dear friend Elizabeth Taylor. In this scene, he is lying in a field, which reminded me of my favorite Rimbaud poem, "The Sleeper in the Valley" which describes everything in this beautiful, dystopic meadow, which at the end reveals a dead soldier in the midst of living nature. Monty Clift was a gay genius actor, that inspired the Method actors Brando and James Dean, who brought an extraordinary emotion and sensitivity to all hoe portrayed. In these paintings from the 90's, I was allowing my own emotions to unleash themselves in my brush, taking film stills as mediums to meditate upon to transmute my unconscious into the image, having something else happen in the abstraction of the image. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a horse seemingly appears in his beard, a subconscious figure also emerges on the left, all brought about without my knowledge in the moment of my muse, which after it left my mind, I stopped painting, Cezanne-style, allowing the raw canvas to show through. This is the last of the figurative paintings I lived with on my wall that first premiered in my notorious Jay Gorney solo debut in New York in 1997, where I installed figurative works that broke into abstraction alongside abstract figurative works (if this isn't an oxymoron). This was new to my audience, but also the art-going audience in NYC at that time, where figurative painting, unless it was John Currin or Lisa Yuskavage, was outre, in a moment that Art and Fashion thrived and photorealistic appropriation was the norm. Although Soutine was uptown at the Jewish Museum (along with upper east side great exhibitions by De Stael and more), downtown people couldn't understand what I was up to—but the artists, especially the painters, did, and I like to think that this was ahead of its time, but also following time, as the expressionist zeal of my painting was seeded by my early love of the German Expressionists. This painting in particular is very personal, as it was my gift to my now husband Andrew for supporting and understanding my experimentation and the Gorney show, and this painting lived on our walls for years. I mistitle it Red River, as this was the first Monty Clift film, where he challenges John Wayne his adoptive father, and perhaps like myself, he is waxing nostalgically for his youth, thinking of his roots in his older age, soldiering on…