Richard Carlyon: A Retrospective

September 11 – November 1, 2009

This exhibition and an accompanying catalogue documented the artistic career of Richard Carlyon (1930-2006), a pivotal figure in the Richmond arts community. While Carlyon’s reputation as an influential and highly regarded teacher is legendary, he also maintained an active studio practice for over five decades, producing an extensive body of paintings, drawings, videos, collages, and constructions. Thematically grouped selections from these extensive holdings—most of which has never before been on public view— together with loans from private collections will give a comprehensive overview of his development and accomplishments. The artist’s studio will be reassembled as another component of the show.

Coordinated by VCU’s Anderson Gallery, with assistance from VCU professor emeritus of art history Howard Risatti, the project is a collaborative effort with 1708 Gallery, Visual Arts Center of Richmond, and Reynolds Gallery. The individual sections of this multi-site retrospective will open at all four venues with concurrent receptions (It remains on view through October 17 at 1708 Gallery and through October 25 at Reynolds Gallery and the Visual Arts Center.) A performance piece conceived by choreographer Chris Burnside as a tribute to Carlyon’s intellect, innovation, and wide-ranging perspective will take place on Saturday evening, September 26, at the Grace Street Theater.

Artist’s Biography

Richard Carlyon studied painting and dance at Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University), earning a BFA in Fine Arts in 1953. After being drafted into the Army and later moving to New York City, he returned to RPI for an MFA in 1963 and ultimately joined the faculty. He was named Professor Emeritus in 1996.

Carlyon was awarded three professional fellowships from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, as well as a fellowship from the Virginia Commission for the Arts to prepare a series of works entitled Dance Maps, based on the movement patterns of dances by Martha Graham. University support in the form of grants for studio research funded several projects, including Achromatic Abstract Painting: The Theoretical Principles of Resonance in Art, Communication and Media; and Word-Based Imagery Attained through Chance, Randomness, Automatism, and Improvisation. Carlyon received the Distinguished Teaching of Art Award from the College Art Association in 1993, and the Presidential Medallion, VCU’s highest honor, in 2005.

In recent years, Carlyon’s work was featured in solo shows at several Richmond galleries. He remained a highly productive artist until his death in 2006, working simultaneously in painting, drawing, and other media. His late works, developed through chance systems, vividly reflect his preoccupation with the visual aspects of language, sound, and movement.


Ashley Kistler, Anderson Gallery, VCU School of the Arts; Beverly Reynolds, Reynolds Gallery; Brad Birchett and Gregg Carbo, 1708 Gallery; Katherine Huntoon, Visual Arts Center of Richmond.


Accompanying the exhibition is a 96-page catalogue designed by John Malinoski, with essays by Howard Risatti and Wesley Gibson. It is available at each venue for $30.


Generous support was provided by Altria Group, Inc.; Office of the Dean, VCU School of the Arts; Markel Corporation; and numerous individuals.