That enigmatic encounter is exactly what Richard Deon is after. “I like to have a work that has maybe two or three different meanings that could be just as valid,” he says. “You can feel a strong sense of direction, a narrative starting to form, and you don’t know the beginning or the end but it’s in progress.”
Deon got his start doodling in his junior high social studies textbooks, creating new scenes and drawing mustaches on characters used to inform children about public institutions and history. This pastime led him to the realization that “these kinds of accidents or even technical accidents or thinking accidents could be seen as art.” Fascinated with the recurring figures in circus posters and the 1950s textbook Visualized Civics, Deon was drawn to the continuity of images suggestive of our shared exposure to the same logos and famous faces.
Deon’s paintings are composed from a group of primarily black-and-white motifs, characters, and shapes—recognizable, universal subjects like Abraham Lincoln or Roman armor—that he places in confusing juxtapositions, creating surreal scenes. His precise, editorial eye developed in his second career as a graphic designer spills over into his art. The empty, mustard-colored sky in Weehawken 2 looks like it’s waiting for text.
Deon likens his work to composing dreams. “You think, I’ve had this chase nightmare before but it’s a little bit different,” he says. “If dreams reuse things over and over again, maybe I should make my paintings run on a track.” For those of us who look for meaning in our dreams, Deon draws a curious link between commercialism and the subconscious.
“Richard Deon: Paradox and Conformity” will be exhibited at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers from July 3 through September 7. (914) 963-4550; www.hrm.org.
- Richard Deon, Weehawken 2, acrylic on canvas, 58â€ x 47â€, 2008.