Berkshire Artist Ricky Darell Barton

Rethinking Real Eyes and Three Other 2020 Exhibitions

By: - Apr 04, 2020

Ricky Darell Barton
The Robot Paintings
April 4- 26 
Real Eyes Gallery
71 Park Street
Adams, Mass
A painting is displayed in the window

On every level Ricky Darell Barton is a hands-on artist.

Wearing gloves, he applies paint to canvas with bright colors and emblematic patterns of semiotic imagery. The paintings are intuitive and connect to the traditions of automatic surrealism particularly the work of Miro.

There is wit and whimsy very much reflective of the persona of the artist. Exchanges with him, including several in anticipation of the current projects, are always relaxed and amusing. Even through dark times he tends to view the glass as half full.

We have seen a lot of the recent work during social gatherings at the Cheshire home he shares with Art Kaufman. They moved here from D.C. a couple of years ago. Since then we have interacted during weekly gatherings of artists at Meng’s in North Adams.

The weekly artist gatherings were initiated years ago by Eric Rudd. To celebrate Joy, who with her husband runs Meng’s, he plans to organize an exhibition of work by these artist diners. It has been projected as the featured exhibition of Rudd’s Berkshire Art Museum in a former North Adams church.

That and most other summer arts programming for the Berkshires has been cancelled or rescheduled.

Winter is a busy time for artists preparing new work for exhibitions. Ricky, who uses his little finger for fine detail, told me with a burst of laughter “I have been working my pinky to the bone.”

Relatively new to the area, this was to be Barton’s breakout season with several solo and group exhibitions. This week was to be the launch of an exhibition at Real Eyes Gallery in Adams, Mass.  

For Barton and many other artists we interact with it is proving to be a Silent Spring in the Berkshires.

Since its fairly recent launch Real Eyes Gallery has made an enormous impact on the Berkshire gallery scene. From the ever increasing and evolving community of artists gallerist, Bill Riley, with enthusiasm, commitment and insight has been able to select a stunning series of solo exhibitions.

 His former family owned furniture store was initially divided into a shop and gallery divided by an entrance. For this season the store space has become a gallery for an ongoing group show. It is a chance to preview work by artists who are preparing solo shows in the adjoining space. Overall, the combined space is regarded as outstanding for the region.

The gallery took a dead of winter hiatus relaunching with the second exhibition of Henry Klein. Not long after the opening the space was closed as non-essential business. The scheduled artist talk was live-streamed which is a plan moving forward.

In preparing this article I e-mailed and spoke with Riley. Yesterday he sent the following message to friends of the gallery.  

“Francie and I are determined to continue offering a venue for artists to do just that at Real Eyes Gallery in Adams MA. Through the technological platforms available to us we will continue to bring the works of regional artists to you. You will find us here on our website as well as on Face Book and Instagram. Those who pass by our place on Park Street in Adams will be able to see the pieces we hang in the window for each show. 

“We plan to have a few live streaming Face Book videos that will also be available on You Tube at our own channel. You can find links to all our available platforms on our website’s front page.

“Currently, we are showing the work of Ricky Darrell Barton in his exhibit Robot Paintings that runs through April 26th.

“Of course, when we are able to open to the public again, we will, and if Francie has her way, there will be a party, a big party. So, please Like us on Face Book, subscribe to the YouTube channel and follow us on Instagram and let’s stay connected through art.

What follows is PR which Barton prepared for the exhibition. To paraphrase what he told me let’s all be safe and gather to celebrate together at a later time.

Ricky Darell Barton has participated in the DC art scene for 25 years, showing his paintings at art galleries, fairs, and pop-ups.  He recently re-located to the Berkshires, and has shown several times, leading up to the current art season in 2020.  He is scheduled to show four times this spring and summer, beginning in April at the Real Eyes Gallery in Adams. 

During the month of May, he will be the featured artist on exhibit at the Amherst Visitors Center, where he also showed in summer 2019.  In June and July this year, his art will be featured at Pittsfield’s Whitney Arts Center.

Simultaneously, this July, he will have a solo show at the Burnett Gallery in the Jones Library in Amherst.  He has thus been very busy producing some 25 new works for these scheduled shows.  Later this summer, he will join members of the Meng's Pan-Asian Restaurant Artist Dinner Group in a show at the Berkshire Art Museum (BAM) in North Adams. 

Robot Paintings are created in the abstract by using a set color scheme and vocabulary. Using foreground and background painting allows color to become the principal character in the painting process, which is the conversation I wanted to have about painting when I began the series, and it thus materialized as my most recent contribution to art. 

I began by using certain colors, which infused energy into the canvas, and that energy was further enhanced when I spatially added letters and shapes.  The result was the “robotic” emergence of figurative shapes.  This greatly excited me, and I immediately wondered how many works I could create this way, whether there could be a consistent voice, what effects would result from using different color choices, and whether I would enjoy painting such works over-and-over again.  That's my exploratory conversation now.

The year 1890 was a very modernist point in time in the world of art.  The great modern colorist Van Gogh dies; French impressionist Renoir paints a modern masterpiece; young modern artists, such as Kandinsky and Picasso, arrive in Paris; and a new art form emerges based on a new technology, called Graphic Arts, one great example of which was a series of Valentine greetings that were printed in two colors, blue and red. 

The resulting energy of combining blue and red made Valentines cards highly popular and enduring, and the new use of multicolor printing became a profitable commercial art form.  I began to use blue and red to create that same energy, and then found that other color combinations also generate visual “vibration,” just as many artists in the Color School recognized in their time.  Color also interests me, however, when it is monochromatic; dominating tones can evoke a variety of feelings, so this became another approach to create my paintings such that in different ways the use of color generates both energy and feeling.

I also use text as a component in my work. I grew up during the 1980s when graffiti first became ubiquitous and expressionist artists were using it in their paintings.  I thus wanted my work to be primitive like graffiti and I also wanted a "tag" to reflect that. It occurred to me that the first thing one hears as a baby is likely the motherly command, “Eat!”  You have to eat to survive.  It is also an iconic word in past artwork.  I therefore chose “EAT,” which is also an acronym for "Everlasting Art Treasure," as my tag, since it is both primitive and transcendent.  I also use letters from my name, several geometric shapes, such as an X, a star, arrows, and dots, as components as well.  I then “lock” the painting by using black lines and shards.  The “googly” eyes are dedicated to Kandinsky, who first used them in paintings in 1918.

By weaving these elements together as I feel them, and thus through luck and chance, images actually create themselves in the painting.  This is why I call them Robot Paintings; even robotic faces, along with many other things, appear long after the works are completed.  My interest thus lies in immersing myself in the process of making each work, which distracts me from looking at the image until it is ready to be “discovered.”  Finding images within images within my works seems endless because Robot Paintings, in effect, keep making themselves.

I see “Pale Sky Blue” as having an endless quality, very much like a galaxy.  My Robot Paintings are works about process through which I create my own galaxies.   I use a set vocabulary, symbols, and a color palette, locked into an architectural grid to allow me to "just go with it" when painting a Robot Painting. I paint with my hands, rags, and primitive tools to achieve a flat graphic feel. I'm interested in having colors vibrate in relation to each other, as well as in relation to the other elements in the painting.  This "relating" is what I find to be the magic as new images continue to emerge after the paintings are completed.

To see more in the Pale Sky Blue series, go to: