Gordon Meinhard: The Lives of Tables

October 4, 2019 - February 9, 2020

Gordon Meinhard’s work in this series modulates between painting and drawing. Even in paint, his art retains the immediacy and freshness of a drawing. The background and central figure in each piece—a roughly square table—are richly articulated in paint; the top layer comprises a skein of images imparting the feel and mark making of oil pastel, though much of it, too, is actually paint.

Though depicting humble tables, Meinhard’s creations bear physical and psychological nuances, requiring careful observation to unlock their riches. At first the works seem to be straightforward examples of Modernist still life painting. As one spends time looking, however, the tables take on personality. A leg shows itself off to best advantage; a table gently leans forward as if to bow; another seems to take umbrage, rearing up on its back edge. As the series progresses the tables become more animated, ultimately seeming almost sentient.

Meinhard has painted in Brattleboro for more than four decades. In the 1970s he was one of the volunteers who created BMAC. This exhibit is a coming home, of sorts—a conversation around the family table.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

One of my early memorable museum visits was to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for its 1962 exhibition of the then-sometimes-controversial French artist Jean Dubuffet. His paintings of tables presented whole new landscapes of life and humor, thick with oil paint and Swedish putty, which was scraped away and drawn into. The outline forms of tables seemed to challenge the edges of the canvas, racing toward all sides. I was taken with Dubuffet’s sentiment: “I must say, all my life, I have always loved tables.”

We spend a great amount of time at our tables, alone or with others. They are places to read or to dine, to work or to rest one’s head, or for some, perhaps, a place to dance. It is hard to ignore the similarities between ourselves and our tables. We have legs and feet which stabilize and carry us, a body mass which reveals the wear of age.

My present work is not only about tables but also about marks on paper, space, and color. I selected the collage elements from earlier works. My intent is for the viewer’s eye to travel, connecting line to line, color to form, and in this way to find a focus or lose the self in a process, an experience.

— Gordon Meinhard