A retrospective exhibit of the work of the late professor Robert Reed ’60 ART ’62 opened Monday in the School of Art’s Green Hall Gallery.
Curated by School of Art Dean Robert Storr, “Robert Reed: Non-Stop Paintings” incorporates around 30 works that Reed produced during his over 40 years at Yale, hung chronologically across four rooms. The memorial exhibition is one facet in a series of initiatives the School has put forth to recognize and celebrate Reed’s life, work and teaching, including renaming a Green Hall classroom where Reed taught many of his introductory art courses in the artist’s honor. In addition, the School plans to establish a scholarship fund in Reed’s name, according to Samuel Messer ART ’81, associate dean of the School of Art. Messer explained that the renamed classroom will be the first room in the School of Art to be named after a person of color.
“Non-Stop Paintings” explores in depth the formal language Reed developed from the 1960s onward, Messer noted.
“The work itself unfolds and reveals through the show,” he explained. “[Reed] was in a camp of abstraction that from the ’60s till now was doggedly unrepresentation, and he developed his own language of making space and using gesture and how he wanted to insert himself into the paintings.”
Reed’s professorship lasted from 1969 until his death this past winter, during which time he had a profound influence on many emerging artists. Students interviewed emphasized Reed’s devotion to teaching, stressing how he kept his own work out of the classroom and let students’ needs take precedence.
David Arteaga ’16, one of Reed’s former students, said he was so curious to see what Reed’s work looked like that he went to see the show the night before it officially opened. Meg Mathile ’17, another former student, also said she was excited to see her professor’s paintings represented in a public exhibition.
“[Reed] was often very humble and private about his own work,” Mathile said. “As someone who studied with him, I cannot wait to see his work recognized.”
In addition to being a professor and artist, Messer noted that Reed was also a “family man,” dedicating time to raising his children alongside his other professional and artistic commitments.
“The amazing thing about him is that he was equally dedicated to all of his passions,” Messer said. “I don’t know of any time when a student asked something of him and he said no. It’s really amazing when you look at the work to think about how he was able to do all that.”
Reed’s work is represented in the permanent collections of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia and the Yale University Art Gallery.