Dan Rizzie is an artist of paradoxical qualities. His independence is in contrast to his aesthetic conservatism. And perhaps because of his unwillingness to be either revolutionary in his artistic approach, or as flamboyant in technique as he is patently capable of, his work hasn’t been as accurately understood as it deserves to be. Rizzie’s extraordinary knowledge of art history informs his art deeply, but in off-beat, even eccentric ways. One is tempted to suggest that at times absorption in the art of others, subsumes his own passion to express a uniquely individual set of feelings. But on further reflection, and especially in light of his more recent body of work, one sees that Rizzie’s vision is as truly sui generis as it is possible for a traditionally grounded artist to be.
The present group of paintings and drawings gives a fascinating set of clues to the artist’s influences and affinities. Rizzie states that perhaps his fundamental allegiance is to Mondrian, Schwitters and Malevich, and that most certainly shows in the work. But so do many other less predictable presences: Robert Delaunay, Paul Klee, Gerald Murphy, the marginal but powerful early 20th century Swedish artist Hilma Af Klint—all of these painters resonate in Rizzie’s work. Though he doesn’t usually identify with these particular sources, he won’t argue with them.
The contemporary figures he singles out as important touchstones, are Brice Marden, Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns. Perhaps even more significant than his interest in these artists is his longtime fascination with Indian miniature painting and Tantric imagery. It is important to note that Rizzie spent his junior and senior high school years in New Delhi. It was there that he was first exposed to this world; all of this was dramatically re-affirmed in the summer of 2009 when the artist revisited India. All of these presences resonate everywhere in his work.
One of the keys to an understanding of Rizzie’s fundamental aesthetic, is to grasp the dual fascination he has with a rather hermetic, even alchemical, element in his signs and symbols—and his love of collage. There probably doesn’t exist a single Dan Rizzie work that doesn’t have a private, even secret, encryption. Sometimes we catch the meaning of a repeated form or image (the Tantric circle is fundamental); sometimes it helps when the artist tells us its derivation. It is fascinating, for instance, to know that the chair in the painting “Mondrian’s Chair” was inspired by a long pondered photograph of Mondrian’s studio filled with furniture that Mondrian made with his own hands. As for the plethora of other associations, whether apparent or mysterious, in his paintings, drawings, and collages, their aura constitutes a great part of the appeal of Rizzie’s work.
Rizzie deals with the surfaces of things. Illusionistic space is his enemy. He wrests light and whimsy and delicacy and wistfulness and depth of knowledge and sensibility, from surfaces. This is not to be mistaken for superficiality; quite the opposite. His allusions are complicated and fraught; his passion for poetic visual art, especially in its subtlest forms, declares itself in everything he makes. It is certainly not necessary, in enjoying this artist’s paintings and drawings, to speculate about their artistic sources; they are enough in their own, inimitable, being. And enjoying them is what they’re all about.
by Jane Livingston