Paul Resika was born in New York City in 1928. He began taking painting lessons at age nine, greatly encouraged by his Russian émigré mother, and studied with Sol Wilson when he was 12 years old. In his late teens, 1947-50, he studied in Provincetown with Hans Hofmann, becoming Hofmann’s Monitor, which was quite a special honor for such a young artist. He was early influenced by the paintings of Joseph De Martini. At 19, the young Resika had his first one-man show of paintings at the George Dix Gallery on Madison Avenue. For much of his 20's Resika traveled in Europe, settling in Venice for two years, studying independently the Venetian painters. He returned to the US in 1954. In 1958, he began to paint outdoors and has not stopped since. In the 60's, he began building a reputation for his landscape and figurative paintings and has become pre-eminent in his use of color. Referencing his earlier studies with Hofmann as a teacher of color, Cate McQuaid wrote in the Boston Globe Observer: "(Resika has) grown into something of a legend himself as an artist and teacher. His show(s) at Walker Gallery leave no doubt as to the power of his painting…The saturated colors, the simple, graceful forms – in a sense this is nothing new; artists have been painting at this edge of abstraction for a century-- yet Resika’s work has such clarity and power, it seems new.”
“As a colorist – a painter who draws in color with a loaded brush – (Resika) is now without peer in his own generation, a generation that has often made color its most important pictorial interest," Hilton Kramer stated in The New York Times. Paul Resika's paintings always feel like poetry, the clarity of his luscious brush strokes pared down to a moment. So it is special to read the words Pulitzer Prize Poet Mark Strand writes about Resika: "The simplicity that characterizes Paul Resika's paintings is deceptive. What appears to be casual disposition of landscape elements is in fact the delicate and precarious articulation of a vision of pictorial purity. In looking at Resika's work, one senses two things simultaneously: that nature despite its complexity has been partially transformed into an idealized place of circles, half-circles, triangles, and straight lines, and that the feel of the out-of-doors---the depth of sky, the outline of island or distant mountain, the sun, the moon---is palpable and has not been compromised.”
Resika rarely talks about his own work, but in conversation with Sue Harrison of The Provincetown Banner, he said: “Form has been my occupation, maybe too much. It’s not the subject, it’s form. I’d like to be different, to change, but you have to follow your form and hope it leads to good things. It’s a high art, painting, and there are a lot of people behind us. We’re standing on a lot, a lot of people. In Provincetown, my god, there’s Webster, Chaffee, Blanche Lazzell, Karl Knaths, Hans Hofmann – my teacher – and all these romantic painters.”
His boats and fish houses, archetypes of a seaside fishing village, his still lifes, and nudes in the landscape, in every medium, vibrate and float, recede into the shadows and mist, throw their own black shadow on the yellow, sun-blazed side of a shack – all dependent on his masterful juxtaposition of colors on the canvas. The canvas is so charged with soul and energy, that the viewer, too, is activated, stirred deeply, where sensual memory resides.
Recent paintings present intensely colored improvisations which he compares to jazz. In a recent interview in the Cape Cod Times, he said:"When someone asked [Coleman] Hawkins how he got such fantastic improvisation [in Hawkins' classic rendition of "Body and Soul"], he said, 'by playing and playing over and over again.' In other words, the most improvised thing is the most ordered, rehearsed thing. For five years, I was out there painting every day, but I never get bored because I was in a trance. You have got to be in a trance to make art work." That's about as close as Resika comes to explaining his art.
Since 1964, Resika has spent winters in New York and summers in Truro, MA. He lives high on a dune overlooking Pilgrim Lake. He has spent time, as well, over the years in France, Mexico, Jamaica, and Maine, sources of fascination for Resika's inquiring brush. He and his wife, the photographer and mezzo-soprano Blair Resika, also spend a month each season on Horse Leech Pond in Wellfleet, another great source of inspiration.
Resika was prominently featured in two recent travelling museum exhibitions: ”The Tides of Provincetown, Pivotal Years in America's Oldest Continuous Art Colony (1899-2011)”, Alexander J. Noelle, New Britain Museum of American Art; and "The Provincetown Art Colony" at the Cape Museum in Dennis, MA, accompanying Debbie Forman's recently-released two volume book,”The Provincetown Art Colony”.The artist has had one-man exhibitions at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College; Graham Modern Gallery, Joan Washburn Gallery, Century Association, Artists Choice Museum and Lori Bookstein, in NYC; Hackett-Freedman Gallery in San Francisco; Lizan Tops in East Hampton, NY; Long Point Gallery, Provincetown Art Association and Museum, and Berta Walker Gallery in Provincetown. Resika was a founding member of Provincetown’s Long Point Gallery, and he graciously credits Berta Walker for contributing greatly to his success since she first began exhibiting and selling his work in 1984 as Founding Director of the Graham Modern Gallery in New York.
In the media:
Paul Resika in American Artist
Arts: Paul Resika, by John Yau
Observer: Paul Resika