Guy Lyman

Red Blues Painting (St. James Infirmary), 2022
Charcoal, Oil Crayon, Oil, Acrylic, Oil Pastel, Watercolor
30 x 40 in
$2,240
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"I have been painting seriously for somewhere around 35 years, but have only ever sold regionally - most recently, through my gallery on Magazine Street in New Orleans. I am now (thankfully) able to reach a worldwide audience and have sold paintings to collectors in places like London, Madrid and Beirut, which is gratifying to me. So I have been reserving some of my work to offer here first. This one has a strange story to it. Inspired by some paintings by an artist named Gary Komarin, I have been making paintings that start with a dominant color and then work the entire painting around it as a visual theme. In this case, I decided to make a red painting, and I even borrowed that big white reverse-L line from Komarin. But quickly after that, for no reason I can think of, it became a painting about a particular blues tune called "St. James Infirmary," which here in New Orleans one has heard quite a bit by the time they reach my age. I even painted the first line of the song at the bottom of the canvas early on, which you can now see only traces of. You can see the usual influences of folks like Donald Baechler, Julian Schnabel, Susan Rothenberg and Philip Guston here, but the painting started to also incorporate shades of black folk art, which was exactly right but not done deliberately. And then what crept in to my astonishment was Basquiat, someone I respect hugely but have never channeled in my art. In this case, it took on extra meaning with the infirmary and particularly the syringe; I didn't think about any of this until the painting was largely finished. Well, of course, it's not a depressing painting - there's that spirit bird, and all will be well. I use a variety of media - nearly always oil and acrylic, but often wax, tar and other materials. I am as interested in the negative space as the positive, and spend a lot of time on the layering, taking out and covering up, wiping and scraping, modulating color, texture and sheen, to get it where I want it. I have fingers in the paint as often as brushes."


I have been painting for about 30 years, since before I was a dealer. I always was and remain most drawn to so-called “painterly” painters, whose interest is less in the formal aspects of painting than in the paint itself, and signs of the artist’s hand in its application. Initially I was drawn to paintings from the magical period between New York Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Jim Dine and Cy Twombly. In the Eighties, it was New York neo-Expressionists such as Julian Schnabel, Terry Winters and Donald Baechler. As you can see, in the past few years my paintings have become more formal, but you can still see a lot of the hand in them. I grew up in New Orleans, lived in various places in the U.S. and Europe, then returned to "the Big Easy" to open my Magazine Street gallery, which I sold in 2017 before moving my art business entirely online. I still enjoy meeting fellow art collectors and painters when they visit New Orleans.