Dancing on the Moon by Ken Nevadomi

NEVADOMI: Dancing on the Moon

October - December, 2021



In the Summer of 2021, WOLFS proudly announced the representation of Ken Nevadomi (b. 1939), Cleveland’s premier neo-expressionist painter.

“Dancing on the Moon” will be the first in an ongoing series of exhibitions at WOLFS that will showcase the numerous and compelling chapters of Ken Nevadomi’s career. With few exceptions, the paintings in this exhibition have been locked away for decades, many coming directly from the artist’s studio. Dating from roughly 1986 to 1993, the paintings represent a mature phase of Nevadomi’s career, when the artist reassessed his direction, and chose to confront, head-on, one of his greatest  heroes and inspirations: Pablo Picasso. He admired this “giant” for most of his life, having spent hours in front of Picasso’s majestic Blue Period masterpiece, La Vie, in the collection of Cleveland Museum of Art. For Nevadomi, this reverence for and study  of the master manifested in a blue palette and the use of classicizing nudes set in otherworldly terrains. Another hallmark of this period is a technical experimentation with gritty paint additives including sand and plaster which he used to evoke stone and the vacuous shores in the mysterious landscapes of this period.

Important to this region as a major artist and highly-regarded art professor at Cleveland State University, Ken Nevadomi owned his blue-collar roots fully, a persona that adds another dimension to his appeal and informs his imagery. At the age of 17, Nevadomi left his troubled home in Cleveland, enlisting in the service for two tours of duty. During this time, he began to recognize his talent for drawing. As he began to draw extensively from life, he hungered to learn how to paint. Once he returned home, he sought academic art training and earned his B.F.A. from the Columbus College of Art and Design in 1972 and an M.F.A. from Kent State University in 1975. From that point on, he never stopped painting, treating this vocation as a second full-time job in addition to his teaching at Cleveland State. His productivity was staggering, and the effort reaped recognition. Nevadomi has appeared in over 40 juried shows and at least sixteen one-man shows since 1975, and he has won three individual artist grants from the Ohio Arts Council. His work was regularly included in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s May Shows winning several first prizes in painting. He was awarded the 1988 Cleveland Arts Prize for Visual Arts. Despite all these successes, he never had representation in New York, where, for better or worse, so many important artistic careers are made.

This changed for Nevadomi in early September of this year when WOLFS, in collaboration with Maxwell Wolf of New Canons, mounted TUBE STRANGE, Nevadomi’s long overdue New York debut exhibition, alongside a critically acclaimed presentation of selected works at The Independent Art Fair, the city’s premier annual contemporary art fair. The exhibition received enthusiastic critical reviews from the New York art press. As Andy Battaglia of Artnews opined, Ken’s “paintings...are entrancing and enigmatic, in an array of styles that are hard to reconcile as the work of only one artist. The elusive but evocative subject matter drifts between strange fever-dream visions and sly allusions to the artist’s past as a commercial illustrator.” For Max Lakin of Artforum to proclaim Ken’s “berserk neo Expressionist paintings and drawings, easily the best thing [he] saw” throughout the melee of Armory week, it's clear that although delayed, Nevadomi’s New York arrival is finally affirmed. 

Nevadomi’s body of work is a rich trove of large-scale paintings and drawings that chart a prolific career spent probing important, provocative subjects that span the twilight of the Industrial Age and the dawn of the Information Age. Continuing to present Nevadomi’s brilliant take on this volatile time is a challenge we enthusiastically embrace.