Cubism is a forgotten art form. Yes, we all have heard of Pablo Picasso and, one of my favorites, Juan Gris. But very few contemporary artists are still turning to Cubism. Why is that? Is it because it is too difficult or just the page in art history that has turned? Very few Cubist paintings can be seen at modern art fairs. Yet, Cubism is one of the world's most recognized art forms and luckily for us James Keeton decided to preserve it.
I met James at the 2018 Hunters Point Shipyard Artists open studios. Very unassuming and friendly, James was excited to talk about his art. We chatted for a few minutes, and I casually took a few photos of his work. I still have photos of his business card and "Still-Life in Violet" in my Photos album. We exchanged a dozen emails while sheltering-in-place during the Covid-19 pandemic in San Francisco. And now, two years later, I am happy to have his paintings as part of the Art House SF collection.
Cubism - with its shadows and angles, with its straight lines trying to depict nonlinear objects and shapes, with its multiple picture planes slicing the space around us - that Cubism has to live on. That is the tradition that James is carrying with him in his work.
In this series, depictions of fishermen serve as a springboard for abstracted images. Color is emphasized, with paintings created in different dominant hues. Horizontal and vertical lines combined with delineated planes reflect an interest in early twentieth-century modernism. Due to the rhythmic organization, use of color, and humorous tone, these images have taken a direction entirely their own. The relationship between the subject and the design unifies the expression.
The fisherman narrative suggests the struggle of humanity against the sea as portrayed by the authors Melville and Hemingway. Fishermen also evoke a numinous aspect, such as the “fishers of men” described in some religious texts. Each painting’s figure is performing a task associated with the occupation, for example, sharpening a knife, which adds another level of meaning. The fisherman is also a symbol of knowledge because of the substantial learning and wide experience required to master the trade. David Lynch, in Catching the Big Fish, compares deep-sea fishing to the depths of the imagination, stating that far down below the surface is where you catch the big fish.