Gerald Donato: Reinventing the Game

January 26 – March 4, 2007

Gerald Donato was a prolific artist whose work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Gerald Donato: Reinventing the Game showcased his work by featuring over forty years of this celebrated artist’s paintings, drawings and prints. Through his trademark emblematic icons, “Mr. Man”, “moon face” and other mysterious images, Donato pulls the viewer into his out-of-kilter world with an always-inventive approach. “Donato tempts us in his work through savvy and satirical mechanisms from familiar cartoon imagery and nonsensical sources creating a unique pictoral language. He then pumps up the volume by employing a sly layering device, giving the viewer brief glimpses alluding to darker contemporary issues as race relations, religion, doubt and dislocation. The end product is a familiar, yet strange, palimpsest,” says Amy Moorefield, Assistant Director of the Anderson Gallery and curator.

Donato, who was born in Chicago, received his MFA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and taught in VCUarts Department of Painting and Printmaking for 38 years. He also lived and worked in Paris and New York. Donato has had numerous solo exhibitions in Richmond and New York and his work was featured in Un/Common Ground: Featuring the Work of Twelve Virginia Artists at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. He has also exhibited internationally in group shows, including in Belgium, Peru, and Moscow. His work is in several private and public collections including the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. He is a beloved fixture in the Richmond arts scene- as a teacher, an exhibitor, a supporter, and a champion of his students and their work.

In his own work, Donato is known for his defiant and passionate images, which combine cartoon-like images that are set within a vivid and gestural environment. As described by Richard Roth, chair of VCUarts Department of Painting and Printmaking, “[Donato] revels in the vulgar and the underappreciated and he stands defiant of all forms of artifice and authority.” Donato’s painterly spaces are curious and irreverent, ephemeral and iconic.

As an artist, one of Donato’s greatest strengths is his ability to constantly reinvent himself and his artistic space, revisiting iconic themes, but adding new twists and turns along to way, never stagnating or stalling, and always playing by his own rules. Says writer and artist and Stephen Westphall, “Outside the picture, in the studio, Donato is a bemused Prospero, improvising on a dime, erasing one figure here and laying one across the ghost of another over there. Like the mangled denizens of Toon Town in “Roger Rabbit,” Donato’s figures aren’t really erased, they pop up in the next configuration.”

A full color exhibition catalogue accompanied Gerald Donato: Reinventing the Game. In addition to images of the artist’s work, there will be essays by Richard Roth, chair of VCUarts Department of Painting and Printmaking, Stephen Westfall, an artist, curator and writer who regularly contributes to Art in America, Paul Monroe, contemporary art collector and Amy Moorefield, Assistant Director and Curator of Collections at the Anderson Gallery.

A companion exhibition of Donato’s works on paper wase held at the Reynolds Gallery in Richmond. Additionally, Gerald Donato: Reinventing the Game traveled to the Stanier Gallery at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia in late fall of 2007.

Primary funding for Gerald Donato: Reinventing the Game has been provided by VCUarts Department of Painting and Printmaking; additional funding and support have been provided by Main Art Supply and Picture Framing, Janet De Cover, Maruta Winebrenner, and Rick Michaels.