For Richard Mayhew, the essence of reality is more important than its facts. His landscape paintings aren’t the facts of a landscape but the spirit of a landscape. That spirit shimmers through a haze saturated with color. Mayhew moved to New York in 1951, a crucial period in American art history. Abstract Expressionism, the first truly homegrown American art movement, was electrifying the public, igniting passionate discussions among the cognoscenti about what constitutes art in the first place and what is its purpose in the public realm. Richard Mayhew, now a student at the Brooklyn Museum’s school of art, with additional courses at Pratt Institute and Columbia, thrived in this fevered environment. The painterly freedom of the Abstract Expressionists had a profound influence on Richard Mayhew, opening his canvases to the wild essence of being that was in kinship with the spirituality of his heritage. Many artists, especially African American artists, involved themselves in the struggle. In 1963, he joined Spiral, a group formed by Romare Bearden, Charles Alston, Norman Lewis and Hale Woodruff, to discuss the role of African American artists in the political and cultural landscape of America. Though Richard Mayhew was an active participant in Spiral and the Civil Rights struggle, his art, unlike that of his Spiral colleagues, was not grounded in African American themes. He remained true to his pursuit of transcendence through the spirituality of the landscapes he portrayed.
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