Art theater speaking

Artist Profile

Self Portrait at The Night CafeDavid Black is a New Yorker. In 1983 his line drawings were seen by Pop artist Patrick Caulfield and abstract painter John Hoyland of London’s Royal Academy of Art. Hoyland is a teacher at Royal Academy Schools. Hoyland told Black his drawings were “quirky and arresting” and he said he liked their “twitchy edginess.” He said what made Black’s drawings really interesting was their “economical and incisive use of line.” It had “a life of its own” regardless of the subject and he told Black: “That is what real drawing is all about.” Caulfield and Hoyland suggested Black try dry point etching which would enhance the quality of his drawings.They arranged for Black to attend the Printmaking Workshop in NewYork where Bob Blackburn took a personal interest in his work. After several exhibitions of his etchings Black began painting.

In 1988 Caulfield suggested that Frederick Gore, Head of the Exhibition Committee for The Royal Academy, visit Black’s studio while he was in New York. Gore selected forty of Black’s paintings for a one-person exhibition in London. In his introduction to the exhibition Gore wrote, “David Black is a serious painter and his paintings are fun. He paints what he likes, he paints what he has seen and he paints it with a sure sense of comedy, really wild comedy, but just too perceptive and observant to be called satire.” Gore called Black “an extraordinary natural talent and a voracious observer of humanity.”  Arts Review critic Ray Rushton singled out ten of Black’s paintings in the exhibition  and ended his review with, “…but best of all I liked the wholly Post-Impressionist oil Rhododendrons and Azaleas.In this Black has taken a subject, so loved by amateurs, and turned it into a monumental, powerfully impastoed, succinctly coloured masterpiece.”

Gore arranged more exhibitions and invited Black to his home in Provence. Over a period of ten years they painted together in the vineyards, sunflower fields, and orchards of Van Gogh and Cezanne. Black describes an incident which illustrates their relationship:

“We were painting in an olive orchard. Freddie was creating a masterful work with color, depth, and perspective in keeping with his position of Head of Painting at St. Martin’s School of Art. I, on the other hand, was concentrating on the color of the earth and the distant mountains leaving the olive trees understated. Freddie scolded me and pointed out that the trunks of the trees looked like ‘crow’s feet.’ I immediately started to thicken the trunks. ‘What are you doing?’ asked Freddie. ‘I’m doing what you suggested.’ ‘Leave it exactly as it is,’ said Freddie. ‘Some people might like it.’”

The BandIn 1992 a member of The National Arts Club in New York purchased one of Black’s paintings which led to an exhibition of Black’s work. American artist and critic Will Barnet wrote in his review “David Black’s paintings Fontana di Trevi and Palio Square really capture Rome and Sienna. In his Moroccan painting, The Tea Lady; the setting and depth of the background give the painting an air of mystery. His use of black in The Fruit Seller is excellent and Basket Square is daring and shows a great sense of color. Unlike some other artists, when Black paints different countries his paintings look like those countries. I also admire The Carousel. The composition and the horses and white balloons create a great sense of motion and color. The painting has a monumental quality.” To coincide with the exhibition, The National Arts Club published a book of Black’s line drawings which the Guggenheim Museum requested for their permanent  collection.

In 1993 Black produced four paintings of people which captured the “twitchy edginess” of his line drawings. The paintings attracted the attention of the DFN Gallery in Soho who offered Black an exhibition. John Hoyland wrote the introduction to the catalogue in which he said. “David Black is a wonderful watcher. His painting of Pool is the best I’ve seen since Vincent Van Gogh…His compositions are wonderfully inventive and brave: full of visual surprises, such as the proportions of the clown in The Costume Party…When he paints his New York background, he is at the heart of his culture. One feels the pain, understanding and sympathy that he feels, as one does with everything he paints.

Grace Glueck, writing in The New York Times said, “Black’s oils, bubbling with color, unabashedly tackle everything from landscape to social mores…The smug couple seated at a table in Benefit Dinner, the two old men playing chess beneath a stuffed deer’s head in At The Club, the bilious crowd in The Backer’s Audition are nicely observed New York vignettes. The critic for The New Yorker wrote, “Wide-eyed tableaux of upperclass Schadenfreude (The Benefit Dinner, The Costume Party, The Backer’s Audition) in appropriately sunny colors. The show offers several plein-air landscapes in homage to the marzipan light of France, but Black is at his most delicious as a satirist.”

In a subsequent issue The New Yorker reproduced Black’s Self Portrait At The Night Café which led to invitations for exhibitions in Ohio, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In 1998 Black was invited for a second exhibition at the DFN Gallery.  Critic Anthony Haden-Guest wrote the introduction to the catalogue: “David Black’s paintings are playful but in no way slight. The canvases are full of “story,” but long before they take on an illustrational overload, they become painterly. Then you try looking at them as ornament, and their content asserts itself. This must be such an excruciatingly difficult trick to pull off that one assumes Black does it by learned instinct, like swimming.”

In 2004 Black was among a group of artists honored at The White House for his participation in the ART in Embassies Program.

Prior to his artistic career Black was a Tony-Award winning Broadway producer. He produced eighteen shows with some of the theater’s brightest stars and wrote two books, The Actor’s Audition and The Magic of Theater.


"Black captures each passage of his exciting and worldly experiences with passion and a deep admiration for humanity." Cover Magazine