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News Release

Payne Gallery to Exhibit John Clem Clarke’s New Old Masters

Reception on March 12 opens the exhibit which runs until April 19

Bethlehem, Pa., March 9, 2009— Payne Gallery at Moravian College will exhibit the works of John Clem Clarke, titled “New Old Masters”—a display of more than 20 of the artist's imaginative interpretations of famous works, such as Rembrandt's "Night Watch." American -born Clarke (b. 1937) is internationally recognized. Clarke’s work—described as “a mix of photo-realism and comic style with pop art imagery”—appears in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibit will run from March 12 to April 19. The public is welcome to attend an opening reception on Thursday, March 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the gallery. Admission to Payne Gallery is free of charge.

In a 2008 issue of Art & Antiques Magazine, Clarke’s unique re-working of famous works was explained. “Old Master paintings had always been ubiquitous in the world of art, but John Clem Clarke's ‘Reproduction Series’ both culturally and technically re-contextualized these paintings into the contemporary 1960s.  Instead of portraying these works as skillfully rendered masterpieces, the peculiar decision was made to remove all evidence of an artist's hand so that the viewer was left with what was essentially as creative as a printed book.  Though far from the trademark primary colors associated with ‘Pop Art,’ Clarke's work was embraced by the movement for its inspired, yet irreverent appropriation style.  This body of work was acclaimed by critics and led him to a long and successful career, which continues to this day.”

Having been born on a rural farm in Oregon in 1937, Clarke had an unlikely start to an innovative artist's life.  He arrived at college on a football scholarship and left 5 years later as a determined artist.  Years later, after establishing an extensive vocabulary of painting techniques, he found himself especially captivated by the potential of using a projector to draw stencils.   Though traditionally limited to simple geometric forms, Clarke's stencils allowed for complex organic shapes, which suited his preference for formal, yet abstract mark making.   Since he wanted to spotlight the style he was working in, he felt that picturing new subject material would only distract from the novelty of the system he was using.  At this point he began to hone in on the relationship between traditional versus mechanical painting, which paralleled original versus reproduced images.  Simply put, reproducing an original painting by an automated technique questioned popular notions of “what art is,” juxtaposed with “what art isn't.”

Payne Gallery is located on the Priscilla Payne Hurd Campus of Moravian College, in Historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The Gallery is open 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, and 6:30 p.m.– 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.  It is closed Mondays, major holidays, and during school breaks. Admission and parking are free, and the Gallery is wheelchair accessible. Bethlehem is sixty miles north of Philadelphia and ninety miles west of New York City. For more information, call 610-861-1481.

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Visit the web site at www.moravian.edu.