The Art of Richard Mayhew: After the Rain

The Art of Richard Mayhew

Exhibited from September 12 2009 – November 22 2009

The Art of Richard Mayhew will represent three separate exhibitions organized chronologically and presented concurrently at three San Francisco Bay Area institutions: the de Saisset Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), and The Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz. Together, the three presentations will provide a complete retrospective exhibition for Richard Mayhew, a nationally recognized, Aptos-based painter.

“How do you interpret landscape with a feeling?” Mayhew asks. “Many of my so-called landscapes are very abstract because they are very free-form; I am involved with the spiritual feeling of space. Just to work with figures would be very limiting because that would identify a particular place or situation. The paintings look like landscapes but that is not necessarily my preoccupation in painting.

“I began working with abstract expressionists because they are involved with the emotional expression in painting. That emotional expression came out with the thick application and spontaneous application of the paint. But I wanted something more than that, so I became more involved with the forms of nature, but not necessarily with landscapes. My art is based on a feeling–of music and mood and sensitivity and the audio responses of sound and space. I want the essence of the inner soul to be on the canvas.”

In the MoAD exhibition, Mayhew’s paintings from the late 1950s through the 1970s, consisting primarily of landscape with some figurative works, will be featured. In 1957, Mayhew enjoyed his first solo exhibition as an academically trained artist and announced his unique style of presenting the natural milieu to the New York art world. During the tumultuous period of social and cultural transformation of the 1960s, Mayhew worked as an artist and an activist most notably as a founding member of Spiral, the legendary group of Black artists including Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and Hale Woodruff, organized in 1963 to address issues of civil rights and racial equality through their art. Through the 1960s and 1970s, Mayhew establishes his career as an artist tirelessly working with a sense of spiritual depth and freedom of color, form, and space. The MoAD exhibition will explore the personal and professional foundations of Mayhew’s style as a young man of African and Native American descent coming of age in New York during the 1950s explosion of Abstract Expressionist art. It will gather together the best of Mayhew’s paintings that combine his unique style, philosophy for painting, and synthesis of artistic and social influences that set the trajectory of his artistic career. The de Saisset Museum’s presentation of The Art of Richard Mayhew will focus on the middle portion of his forty-year long career. The exhibition scope will commence in 1975, when Mayhew began his teaching tenure at nearby San Jose State College (now San Jose State University) and will continue until the mid-1990s.

The de Saisset Museum’s exhibition will explore the role that Mayhew’s frequent cross-country journeys played in his landscapes. In addition, the presentation will showcase the increasing importance of California-and the Bay Area region in particular-in Mayhew’s work.

The Museum of Art & History’s exhibition component of The Art of Richard Mayhew will showcase the most recent work produced by the artist, since his relocation to Santa Cruz County.

Richard Mayhew’s landscapes are luminous-infused with sparkling light, brilliant color, and dreamy atmosphere. While he has focused on the genre of landscape throughout his four-decade-long career, his primary interest is conveying the spiritual, rather than the physical, power of place. Instead of painting outside, he prefers to recall an image of a place from his memory, in order to represent the mood of the particular location. “How do you interpret landscape with a feeling?” Mayhew asks. “I am involved with a spiritual feeling of place.

“While he was based in the East Coast, Mayhew began teaching at San Jose City College in 1975, and for the next four years of his tenure there, he regularly drove across the country. Mayhew became captivated by the diverse landscapes he saw on these trips. These experiences made him acutely aware of the personal connections we make to landscapes: Americans are one of the most mobile peoples on earth and we tend to gravitate towards landscapes with which we identify.

This retrospective exhibition will be featured collaboratively at The Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz, the de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University and the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

The exhibition will feature work from throughout Mayhew’s career. The early portion of Mayhew’s career will be explored in the exhibition at the Museum of the African Diaspora, the middle of the artist’s career at the de Saisset, and his recent work at the Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz.


Richard Mayhew was born in Massapequa, New York, to Native American and African American parents. He was educated at Columbia University, the Academia Florence, the Art Students’ League, and the Brooklyn Museum Art School. His work has been exhibited extensively around the world and is included in museum permanent collections around the country. Richard Mayhew lives and works in Aptos and in Santa Cruz, California.

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