Works
Overview

Primitive communication and expression of the raw terror of survival in those times are felt in Louis Tavelli's later work. 

Louis Tavelli's body of work spans six decades. He attended the Colorado Springs Art Center as a young man, eventually teaching painting at the University of North Carolina, Cooper Union in NYC and the University of Michigan. Summers were spent in Woodstock, NY where he had a studio in the back of an old theater on Maverick Road. Woodstock, being an established artists community was packed with dancers, musicians, artists and writers. He was a member of the progressive "New Group" of artists there. Louis was also a talented professional violist and violinist. He started performing on stage in his home town; Williamstown, MA as a youth accompanied by his mother at the piano. At college age he won a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. It was during these college days that he and his string quartet began visiting Woodstock, NY in the summers. There was always a gig for them at fancy mansion parties and at the same time he could continue art work in an inspiring atmosphere among other cutting edge artists. Lou eventually bought property in Woodstock. He loved building bon fires in the front yard while personalities on Maverick road would drift over and congregate , enjoying the warm summer evenings. The early period of his career, 1930s - 1961 was prolific and we see his development in America's art scene through the eras of post impressionism, Asian calligraphy influence, cubism and abstract expressionism. Lou was drafted into the army during WW2. He always had a sketch book in hand continuing to develop drawing skills and simultaneously formed a string orchestra on base in Louisiana. After the war he elected to study mosaics in the WPA program, selling table tops in NYC. Galleries: Hacker, Camino, Berta Schaeffer, Washington Irving, Krasner, Rice, Knapik, Stable, Parnassus Square-Woodstock, Judson Smiths-Woodstock, Woodstock Artists Association-Woodstock, Polari Gallery-Woodstock One Man Shows: Hacker, Bennington College, Williams College, New York State University, Mari Gallery-Woodstock, State Museum of Art-Raleigh, Museum of Art University of Michigan In 1962 Tavelli returned to Williamstown MA, the town of his birth to live. He focused on teaching his daughter violin. He performed as Principal violist of the Albany Symphony, Vermont Symphony, Berkshire Symphony and toured with his chamber group featuring exotic combinations of instruments and premiering contemporary compositions. One of the chamber music engagements took place in Spain where he visited the caves at Altamira. Early humanity and images they left behind hugely influenced his creative process from then on. Symbols, pictographs and layering much like today's graffiti enthralled him. Primitive communication and expression of the raw terror of survival in those times are felt in Louis Tavelli's later work.

 

Biography

These Hunters don’t belong on urban walls. They are primitive beings, like those made by the folk who began painting cave walls 36,000 years ago. Tavelli captures the raw-energy of the original man and tells the epic story of his lives throughout history.

--Anthony Haden-Guest

Lou Tavelli, who died in 2010 ago aged 96, was both an Ab-Ex artist and a professional musician - a violinist - and his painting clearly channelled his musical sensibility. He spent much of his adult life in Woodstock, where he was a friend and neighbour of Philip Guston, who had dropped out of Ab-Ex to make  the brutalist comic-strippy paintings that are now his most prized work, and it is tempting to imagine that this might have had some effect on the development of Tavelli.

   It was on a 1983 trip to Spain that Tavelli saw the cave paintings in Altamira. The impact was profound. Soon he was working on what he called his Indigenous Peoples Series. These paintings, such as the works called Hunters and Hunters and Prey, are at once raw and deft. Tavelli had clearly been absorbing the work of such graffiti stars as Haring and Basquiat, and his canvases show that he could devise and orchestrate glyphs, signs, pictograms with aplomb, but it's equally clear that his work doesn't exhale the air of the inner city. These Hunters don't belong on urban walls. They are primitive beings, like those made by the folk who began painting cave walls 36,000 years ago. Tavelli captures the raw-energy of the original man and tells the epic story of his lives throughout history.

--Anthony Haden-Guest

Exhibitions
Virtual exhibition