“Herbert was constantly renewing himself as an artist. He never rested on his earlier inventions but moved on to new ways of applying paint that were original and different from anything else.” | Gudmund Vigtel, Director, High Museum of Art 1963-1991
Bill Lowe Gallery proudly announces our exclusive representation of the Estate of Herbert Creecy (1939-2003). Heralded as the most significant Abstract Expressionist painter ever to come from the South, Creecy’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), the High Museum of Art (Atlanta), the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, as well as in a vast array of blue-chip corporate and private collections. A carefully curated collection of Herbert Creecy’s never-before-seen paintings at Bill Lowe Gallery shines a new light on this historic artist.
Herbert Creecy’s dense and exuberant paintings employ a range of experimental techniques that were ahead of his time. Though widely known for his “squiggles”, the scope of Creecy’s oeuvre demonstrates his immense ingenuity and technical virtuosity. Wildly prolific, his imagery and influences were unbounded by traditional constructs. He often re-purposed and painted over canvases to unearth new compositions, pushing the spatial boundaries of the traditional picture plane. Creecy’s methodology allows his work to maintain its integrity and complexity in almost all orientations. What always remains is a pure painterly expression of an internal landscape.
Widely acknowledged as Atlanta's most renowned painter, Herb Creecy's “Southern-ness” gave him as much pride as lament; he was quoted to have often been disappointed with the limitations of the Atlanta arts scene. Yet, he never migrated nor disassociated from the regionality that was so integral to his identity. Abstract Expressionists like Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, and Robert Rauschenberg are rarely attributed to the South; their artistic careers were launched out of and driven by New York, their narratives often stripped of their geographical origins. Herbert Creecy maintained impressive artistic influence from his Atlanta base, where his creative mastery earned him a rightful place in the arc of art history.
Painting in the Territory of Now
by Robert C. Morgan
An overview of Herbert Creecy’s paintings requires a certain degree of subjectivity to be fully understood, but this should not be the sole means by which we come to terms with his work. There is an objective side as well, more involved with the psychology of the Ego that reveals an important counterpart to subjective experience. Through a heightened awareness of himself in the act of painting, Creecy found a way to emancipate the hidden recesses of form. By necessitating the presence of form, he allowed painting to become his painting – a subjective involvement not only for himself, but for his viewers as well.
Given the method by which he worked, it could be said that Creecy liberated himself through the act of painting, what might be understood as a cognizance of temporality, an acute awareness of time. This might further suggest that his art carried with it a direct philosophical sense of being. It is possible that he understood his role as a painter as someone living through a moment in history wherein his art could be likened to a kind of existential realization that gave attention to himself and his mortality as being integral to the act of painting.
It would be difficult to say whether or not such a moment really existed in his work. Such philosophical motives do not always reveal themselves so clearly. Even so, this does not negate the artistic desire for emancipation. Creecy was clearly interested in making paintings on his own terms. Despite any influences that may have contributed to his work – if allowed to exist consciously within his paintings – the emergent forms would ultimately remain his own and unique attributed to his paintings.
In a more parochial sense, he was out on his own. His major concern became the direction these forms would take. Would they remain static or would they move forward? Would one painting offer a direction for another or for an entire assembly of paintings? If so, this would not always appear obvious in Creecy’s work. Rather, there would most likely be a series of interruptions or intervening variables to the extent that motifs from the past would impinge upon the future, but not always in a direct sequence or in any perceivably logical order.
Some observers might inquire about his ideas. Were there any specific ideas in Creecy’s paintings? It is difficult to say, but I am not certain this matters. If ideas are present, they appeared to have come through his audience (including critics), namely through an inert or implicit understanding that painting is about material as much as thought, or by the notion that the process of thinking as a phenomenon specific to the time and place of a painting as made unequivocally clear in Static in Gestures (1986).
Put in this light, my immediate grasp of Creecy’s work tends to equivocate, depending on which paintings I might have seen or have tried to interpret. There are profound differences between the optical play in Cut Through (1977- 79) and a later, more philosophical painting such as The Fisherman’s Shadow (1993 – 99). If “ideas” appear on the horizon, they would most likely be understood as secondary to the artist’s direct process of painting. This I would see as being the inner (inward) process by which Creecy actually worked; and by working remained in constant touch with organizing his desire as the means by which to emancipate and liberate form. This would appear less within the realm of ideas per se, and more directly involved with the construct of the Ego from an aesthetic point of view.
In this way Creecy appeared to hold his Ego in check throughout the act or painting as he sought to maneuver his way through “the territory of now.” I will define this as being the present moment when an artist discovers and/or recognizes form as being absorbed by desire, the “spiritual” axis that determines the emancipation of the self as expressed in Afternoon with Dante (1974 -1983). This might be understood in contrast to a painting derived from the unconscious as put forth in Sea Foam Dream (1982). Whether this extends further into the realm of existence is difficult to say. But what it invokes in the present is directly concerned with the artist’s relationship to the psychology of vision. In this particular case, vision functions as a type of phenomenology, inspired by the French psychologist Merleau-Ponty, which involves an ongoing, constant scrutiny for painters like Herbert Creecy who have taken the time to learn how to recognize form in their paintings
Like secular missals, taken mysteriously outside of language, the paintings of Creecy hold the rapture of the unknown. His imagery focuses on the molecular as if suspended in transparent tidal pools hovering one above another as in his majestic Brazilian Romance Dream Currents (1991). The paintings from this series constitute a beckoning toward polychromatic adulation, fraught with sanctified agates or the gleaming scales of abalones bundling in silicon nets of tranquility. With Creecy it is difficult to discern, foretell, or negotiate one painting against another. There is little in the way of a criterion adequate enough to make that kind of comparison. Each surface holds its own essential dimensionality not merely in terms of width, height, and breadth, but a lingering depth of metaphysical purpose and distillation. These are factors that come into play when observing the artist’s works as in The Picture Frame Fragmented by Semantics (1992) and Shades and Shadows (1975 – 1983). Each of these paintings holds its own bearing, its own separate conduit of inspiration, tenacity, and refinement. There is a purpose inducted within these paintings that reigns beyond the obvious. What we see is a kind of instantaneous surveillance honed through with honesty accompanied by a quiet reproach to any harrowing abscess that defies a perspicuous sense of gravity reeling outside the designation of truth.
Where do we go from here? This is always the next question, the one that goes in search of a proper insight by which we begin to integrate with Creecy’s paintings. As with the incisive, often paradoxical poetry of William Carlos Williams, we are taken by the specifics before the universal makes any real sense, no matter how many words seduce our sensory response to the artist’s oeuvre. Indeed, the particulars are what open the door to our understanding of what is really there in front of us: the painting staring back at us, after we have given ourselves the allegiance to stand in front of it. What is it, really?
But the particulars may become too literal when taken into the realm of painting, especially when describing paintings based on representation that verge on abstraction. For example, Rhapsody (1998) and Brazilian Romance –Swamp Things (2001) were both painted in acrylic with mixed media within three years of one another. The two paintings are distinctly similar to one another. Thematically, they suggest ponds in which various manifestations of indigenous growth are revealed, including Amazon Frogbits, Lily Pads, Salvinia, Hyacinths, etc. Of the two, Rhapsody has a more translucent surface in which the colors are painted over one another creating a density through the thin layers of pigment.
In contrast, Brazilian Romance retains a higher contrast between the color tonalities, offering a greater sense of depth and definition of the natural forms. From the perspective of painting – call it abstract expressionism, if you will – the emphasis is clearly on the transition between the source of the artist’s vision and its purposeful devolution into abstraction. These paintings express two different directions relative to form, namely, translucency and surface contrast. Having just described this visual phenomenon in literal terms, one might further clarify the artist’s extraordinary gift for painterly transformation as being an essential aspect of his subject matter. It is through this transformation that the artist’s Ego reveals a particular energy. The surface becomes something other than a material quantity. Rather Creecy has shown us a lyricism of vision through his desire to become part of what he is painting, in essence, to give us an experience that exceeds the normative, thereby moving our sensibilities inscrutably into the realm of art.
In another exemplary painting, In the Eyes of the Birds (1992), the modestly blazing colors are painted within a square or nearly square format. The results are evenly spectacular, meaning that the variety of color applications lends itself to a surface that goes beyond the namable in ways that are both specifically direct and universally expansive. One cannot see this painting without accounting for both. The contradictory dribbles and smudges, the wet and the dry, the open and closed, the greens and the reds, are repeated throughout. There is no resting place. The artist has put us visually on the move in a way that recalls the masterful paintings of Bosch and Breughel. The title sets the stage by presenting us with an alternative reality whereby we see aspects of life from a heightened perspective, and through this perspective we discover the persistent vitality that Creecy brought to bear throughout the temporality of motion that exemplifies his major works.
The totality of an artist’s work, as in the case of Herbert Creecy, is difficult to summarize in that the diversity is often what clarifies the painterly sensibility rather than exterior notions of how paintings conform to one another. With Creecy, there is little in the way of conformity, which may read as an attribute that gives his work its ultimate strength. As I have chosen to speak about the artist’s sensibilities as a painter as being in the present, the issue is not about the literal present but about “now” as opposed to the past being “then.” My perspective on the paintings of Creecy is that the sensibility of being “now” is what constitutes the present, which comes alive for anyone who takes the time to see his work as a contemporary experience that never goes away.
1960 – 1964 Atlanta College of Art; Atlanta, GA
1964 S.W. Hayter Atelier 17, Paris
1958 – 1960 University of Alabama; Tuscaloosa, AL
A Legend Rediscovered, Bill Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA
Herbert Creecy, The Jacqueline C. Hudgens Center for the Arts; Duluth, GA
Promised Gifts from the Herbert Creecy Estate, The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA); Atlanta, GA
Paintings from the 1990s, Mason Murer Fine Art; Atlanta, GA
Selected Works, Madison-Morgan Cultural Center; Madison, GA
Mixed Media and Works on Paper: Herbert Creecy, Mason Murer Fine Art; Atlanta, GA
Herbert Creecy: Works from the Private Collections of the artist’s friends and patrons, MOCA GA; Atlanta, GA
8th Annual Masters Series: Herbert Creecy: Curves, Swerves and Repetitions, City Gallery East; Atlanta, GA
Herbert Creecy: Connectedness, Zinc Contemporary Art; Bluewater Bay, FL
Herbert Creecy: Shakin’ Shanty 1982 – 1990, Wade Gallery; Los Angeles, CA
Shakin’ Shanties ’83 – ’90, Novus, Inc.; Atlanta, GA
Novus Gallery, Inc; Atlanta, GA
Recent Paintings, Wade Gallery; Los Angeles, CA
Herb Creecy, Alexander Gallery; Atlanta, GA
Paintings 70s through 80s, Lamar Dodd Art Center, LaGrange College; LaGrange, GA
Works on Paper, Highland Gallery; Atlanta, GA
Paintings and Things ’66 – ’88, Nexus Contemporary Art Center; Atlanta, GA
Herbert Creecy: Recent Paintings, Patricia Carega Gallery; Washington, DC
Fay Gold Gallery; Atlanta, GA
V.N. International Gallery; Alexandria, VA
Cumberland Gallery, Knoxville, TN
University of Tennessee Art Gallery, Knoxville, TN
Heath Gallery; Atlanta, GA (also 1980, 1979, 1977, 1974, 1973)
Auburn University Art Gallery; Auburn, AL
Objects Gallery; Savannah, GA
Dick Jemison Gallery; Birmingham, AL (also 1978, 1974)
D.M. Gallery; London, England
Herb Creecy, Image South Gallery; Atlanta, GA (also 1972)
OK Harris; New York; NY
Herb Creecy: Recent Works, High Museum of Art; Atlanta, GA
Ilian Gallery; Atlanta, GA (also 1968)
Unitarian Universalist Congregation; Atlanta, GA
Clark Atlanta University; Atlanta, GA
Mandola Gallery; Atlanta, GA
High Museum of Art; Atlanta, GA
2010 Twenty Georgia Masters, The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA); Atlanta, GA
2010 Recent Acquisitions, The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA); Atlanta, GA
2006 Light-Sound Intersections: Structure and Movement in Space and Time, The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA); Atlanta, GA
2005 MOCA Majors (from the permanent collection of MOCA GA), MOCA GA; Atlanta, GA
2004 Wayne Kline and the Rolling Stone Press, MOCA GA; Atlanta, GA
2004 Selected Works: State of Georgia Art Collection, MOCA GA; Atlanta, GA
2002 Artists of the Heath Gallery: 1965 to 1998, MOCA GA; Atlanta, GA
Georgia Triennial, Telfair Museum of Art; Savannah, GA
2001 Important Georgia Masters: Ed Moulthrop and Herbert Creecy, SunTrust Gallery; Atlanta, GA
1997 Progressive Art for a Progressive Alabama, The Partners Gallery of The Business Center of Alabama; Montgomery, AL
Lithographs of Work by Atlanta College of Art Alumni, ACA Gallery 100
1994 Herbert Creecy and Paula Jean Rice, South Gallery, Florida Community College of Jacksonville; Jacksonville, FL
1993 Perspectives of Contemporary Art: Herbert Creecy, Sidney Guberman, Jim Touchton, Swan Coach House Gallery; Atlanta, GA
1992 10th Anniversary Visiting Artists Exhibition, Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture, University of Tennessee; Knoxville, TN
1992 Original Stone (lithograph printed at the Rolling Stone Press), Gwinnett Council of Art; Lawrenceville, GA
1991 Selected Lithographs by Southern Artist (lithograph printed at Rolling Stone Press), Moody Gallery of Art, University of Alabama; Tuscaloosa, AL
In and About Atlanta, Nexus Contemporary Art Center; Atlanta, GA
Visiting Artist Exhibition: Painters Karen Shaw and Herb Creecy, Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture, University of Tennessee; Knoxville, TN
1990 Master Prints from the Rolling Stone Press, Wesleyan College; Macon, GA
Gesture/Fluidity/The Stroke, Chastain Gallery; Atlanta, GA
Herbert Creecy and Whitney Leland: New Work, Cumberland Gallery; Nashville, TN
1989 Retrospective Show, Rolling Stone Press, Columbia Museum of Art; Columbia, SC
Selected Lithographs from the Rolling Stone Press, Columbus Museum of Art; Columbus, GA
1988 Fall Exhibition, Swan Coach House Gallery; Atlanta, GA
1988 Rolling Stone Press: Southeastern Artists, Student Center Gallery, Georgia Institute of Technology; Atlanta, GA
Contemporary Artists in Georgia: Selections from the High Museum’s Collection, High Museum of Art at the Georgia-Pacific Center; Atlanta, GA
Adams Outdoor Advertising Company; Atlanta, GA
Robert Sowers, Herbert Creecy, OK South; Miami, FL
1987 Inman Park and Virginia-Highlands Annual Open Studios and Sale; Atlanta, GA
1986 Paths Crossed, Highland Gallery; Atlanta, GA
Ten Artists, 10 Years, Gallery 291; Atlanta, GA and the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center; Madison, GA
1985 Southern Connections, Blount Invitational; Montgomery, AL
1984 Art Contemporania Della Carolina Del Nord, Della Carolina Sud E Della; GA, USA/ Volti Del Sud; Rome, Italy
Images on Paper Invitational, Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture, University of Tennessee; Knoxville, TN
1983 Southern Abstractions: Five Painters, Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture, University of Tennessee; Knoxville, TN
University of Georgia Art Department of Art Faculty Exhibition, Georgia Museum of Art; Athens, GA
Eyeball to Eyeball: Bob Beauchamp and Herbert Creecy, University of Georgia Department of Art Gallery; Athens, GA
1982 Artist in Georgia, Lamar Dodd Art Center; LaGrange, GA
Toys Designed by Artists, Little Rock Art Center; Little Rock, AK
29th Arts Festival of Atlanta; Atlanta, GA
LaGrange National VII, Chattahoochee Valley Art Association; LaGrange, GA
1980 Artists in Georgia, High Museum of Art; Atlanta, GA (also 1979, 1974 and 1971)
1979 Art Patron Art, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art; Winton-Salem, NC
1978 Painting Invitational, West Carolina University; Cullowhee, NC
1977 35th Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, Corcoran Museum of Art; Washington, DC
1976 35 Artists in the Southeast, High Museum of Art; Atlanta, GA
1974 Italia 2000, Naples, Italy
1973 Artist Biennial Preview, New Orleans Museum of Art; New Orleans, LA
New American Abstract Painting, Vassar College; Poughkeepsie, NY
Artist Choice I and II, Oglethorpe University; Atlanta, GA (also 1972)
1970 The American Federation of Arts Drawing Society National Exhibition, Atlanta, GA
Southeastern Annual Exhibition, High Museum of Art; Atlanta, GA (also 1966, 1965 and1964)
1967 Annual Garden Exhibition, Callaway Gardens; Pine Mountain, GA (also 1966 and 1964)
Hunter Museum Annual Exhibition, Hunter Museum of Art; Chattanooga, TN (also 1964)
1966 Art in Embassies Program, United States State Department; Washington, DC
1965 South Annual National Invitational Exhibition, University of Tennessee; Knoxville, TN
1964 New Arts Gallery; Atlanta, GA
1963 The Mead Corporation Ninth Annual Painting of the Year Competition Exhibition; Atlanta, GA
1962 Georgia Artists Show, Savannah, GA
CORPORATE AND PRIVATE COLLECTIONS
Mead Packaging Corporation; Atlanta, GA
King & Spalding; Atlanta, GA
Alston & Bird; Atlanta, GA
Troutman Sanders; Atlanta, GA
Kilpatrick Stockton; Atlanta, GA
Paul Hastings; Atlanta, GA
McKenna, Long & Aldridge; Atlanta, GA
Powell Goldstein; Atlanta, GA
Kutak Rock; Atlanta, GA
Shearson Lehman Hutton American Express, Inc; Atlanta, GA
Bank South; Atlanta, GA
Waverly Hotel; Atlanta, GA
Richard B. Russell Federal Building; Atlanta, GA
Surf Air; Atlanta, GA
Portman Properties; Atlanta, GA
Barton Protective Services Inc; Atlanta, GA
Patio Restaurant; Atlanta, GA
Marra’s Restaurant; Atlanta, GA
Marriot Marquis; Atlanta, GA
National Bank of Georgia; Atlanta, GA
Wilma Southeast; Atlanta, GA
J.B. Sadler Ltd; Glenview, IL
Heery International; Atlanta, GA
American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation; Chicago, IL
McDonald Corporation; Oak Park, IL
Alabama Power Company; Birmingham, AL
First National Bank of Birmingham; AL
Chase Manhattan Bank; New York, NY
IBM Corporation; Raleigh, NC
Federal Reserve Bank; Richmond, VA
Jemison Investment Company; Birmingham, AL
Fuqua National; Atlanta, GA
Omni International; Atlanta, GA
Atlanta Capital Management, Inc; Atlanta, GA
Southern Progress Corporation; Birmingham, AL
Gay Construction Company; Atlanta, GA
Cousins Properties (First Union Tower); Greensboro, NC
Bridgestone Corporation; Nashville, TN
Wolf, Debra. Color Unfurled: The Joy is Palpable in Notable Georgia artist’s swirling, curving hues. Atlanta Journal Constitution. July 1, 2007.
Fox, Catherine. Creecy Through Thick and Thin. Atlanta Journal Constitution. July 27, 2003.
Millay, Amanda. Room to Remember: Collective exhibit honors Northside Artist. Northside Neighbor. July 16, 2003.
Fox, Catherine. Dynamic Art Mirrored Life of Herbert Creecy. Atlanta Journal Constitution. July 1, 2003
Nelson, Charles. Reviews Southeast: Atlanta (Georgia Triennial). Art Papers Magazine, July/August 2002.
Exhibition Catalogue, Georgia Triennial – Herbert Creecy, pages 19 -20, 2002.
Fox, Catherine. Bold, Beautiful & Brilliant: Herbert Creecy has a love affair with paint. Atlanta Journal Constitution, February 8, 2002.
Fox, Catherine. Something old, something new from 2 masters. Atlanta Journal Constitution. 2001.
Sanders, Luanne. Shack Showcase. Creative Loafing Atlanta. November 10, 1990. Pages 27 – 28.
Jinkler-Lloyd, Amy. The Southern Artist: Herb Creecy, from Abstract Expression: Sea Island Setting for Art and Architecture. Veranda Magazine. Summer 1990. Pages 92 – 95.
Fox, Catherine. Area artists get a chance to shine in exhibitions at Chastain and Heath. Atlanta Journal Constitution. February 26, 1990.
Heath, Leanne B. The Town, The World. Southern Homes Magazine. Vol. 7 No. 3, (May/June 1989), pages 86 – 90.
Jinkler-Lloyd, Amy. Creecy Retrospective celebrates one man’s commitment to art. Atlanta Journal Constitution. March 17, 1988.
Boyd, Bill. Warehouse Is His Home, Studio. Telegraph. 1977.