Roland Reiss: Unapologetic Flowers and Small Stories

April 6 – July 8, 2018
Claremont Museum of Art
200 W. 1st St., Claremont

The Claremont Museum of Art’s exhibition Roland Reiss: Unapologetic Flowers and Small Stories will focus on the work of acclaimed Los Angeles artist Roland Reiss who devoted much of his teaching career to the Claremont community. On view will be selections from two of Reiss’s best-known bodies of work: the “miniatures,” sculptural tableaux suggesting human dramas in familiar settings (1970s-90s), and recent floral paintings that vastly expand the expressive potential of one of the most conventional subjects in the history of painting.

Roland Reiss, Fleur du Mal II, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 68 x 52 in.

Roland Reiss holds an honored role in Claremont. As Chair of the Claremont Graduate University Art Department from 1971 to 2001, he taught and mentored generations of students in an innovative program that he developed and that set a standard for graduate art education. An artist of international stature and wide acclaim, Reiss has maintained an extraordinarily successful career that has extended for more than 60 years. Long known for his warmth, generosity and professionalism, he has been characteristically helpful in the organization of this exhibition.

About the Exhibition

The exhibition, generously sponsored by Peggy Phelps, Jane Park Wells and Bill Wells, will include a selection of “miniatures” dating from the mid-1970s-90s. Among the artist’s best-known works, these boxed, sculptural tableaux are simultaneously familiar, mysterious, and provocative. Also on view will be a selection of Reiss’s floral paintings drawn from a series begun in 2007 that continues to this day. The decision to focus on flowers, a subject generally undervalued in the history of painting, reflects the artist’s ongoing determination to challenge himself, to push limits, to employ the breadth of his experience in compositions far more complicated than they first appear. Taken together, these examples of two of Reiss’s signature bodies of work convey a sense of the artistic and intellectual breadth of his remarkable career and, in so doing, honor an individual who has contributed profoundly to the development of the arts in Claremont.

Roland Reiss, The Dancing Lessons: Reconciliation, of Yes and No, 1977, mixed media, 14 x 24 x 24 in.

About the Artist

Born in Chicago in 1929, Roland Reiss has been making art continuously since 1956 and teaching for almost that long. After earning BA and MA degrees at UCLA (1952-56), he taught at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and, in 1971, was named Chair of the Art Department at Claremont Graduate University. At CGU he held the Benezet Chair in the Humanities; in 2010, an endowed chair in art was established in his name.

During his long tenure in Claremont, Reiss taught and mentored generations of students in the innovative, widely acclaimed program he developed, enabling them to enter the art world prepared to launch successful careers. When Reiss won the prestigious College Art Association Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2009, the citation noted: “An exceptional teacher can connect with the current generation of students and lead them into the future. It is a rare educator who can do this generation after generation, deeply penetrating the pulse of the times. “Many of his student’s grace Claremont’s art community today.

In light of Reiss’s long commitment to teaching and administration, the extraordinary career he has maintained as an artist seems all the more remarkable. His work has been exhibited internationally, recognized by no fewer than four NEA Visual Arts Fellowships, among many other honors, and is to be found in major museums and private collections in this country and abroad.