PORTLAND, ME.- Charles DuBack (born 1926) first came to Maine from New York City in the mid-1950s. Charles DuBack: Coming to Maine will feature 20 paintings and collages focusing on his rarely shown, but pivotal, work from the late 1950s. The exhibition is complemented by a small selection of his more recent watercolors from 1998 depicting the woods that surround his home in Tenants Harbor. These two bodies of work, although separated by decades, are related in conception and are the result of DuBack’s response to the landscape of Maine. This is the Portland Museum of Art’s first exhibition devoted to that seminal period when New York post-war modernism arrived in Maine. Charles DuBack: Coming to Maine is on view October 10, 2009 through January 3, 2010.
Coming to Maine in the mid-1950s provided a turning point in Charlie DuBack’s artistic career. Like many New York artists, DuBack originally planned to spend a summer at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture but eventually established a life-long love of the Maine landscape. A devoted modernist inspired by the earlier paintings of Picasso and Matisse, DuBack was equally involved in the emerging color-field and Pop-Art movements of the day. It was these early works that first brought him critical acclaim in New York. His later watercolors translate his early love of color into a patchwork of bright brushwork that verges on abstraction. With a minimum of bravura brush strokes, DuBack can deftly describe a fir tree, sun glinting on the water, or the rising and the setting of the sun.
DuBack, who had shared a New York studio with sculptor Bernard Langlais and painter Alex Katz in the 1950s, was part of a group of artists who all settled in mid-coast Maine as summer residents. Along with Lois Dodd and Yvonne Jacquette, their work is well represented in the Portland Museum of Art’s collections. DuBack’s massive painting with figural cut-outs, The Coopers (1970) hangs along with many of these works in the Museum’s contemporary third floor gallery. All of these artists were drawn initially to the landscape, but soon expanded their interests to the human figure and to the traditional culture and history of this place. Over the years, DuBack, who is an avid fly fisherman, has developed an especially intimate knowledge of the Maine woods. With an artist’s eye for defining color and shape, he translates that visual understanding into works of art that convey the vibrancy and animation of nature.