Courthouse opens season with John Neville and Stephen Pace


“Rescue” Intaglio print by John Neville

Courthouse Gallery Fine Art in Ellsworth kicks off their 2013 season with two exhibitions,  “John Neville: The Tales of Hall’s Harbour” which highlights Neville’s hand-pulled Intaglio prints, and “Stephen Pace: Maine” which highlights his oil paintings of Maine using his abstract expressionist overtones.

A native of Nova Scotia, Neville was born in Hall’s Harbor, on the Bay of Fundy, to a family of boat builders and fisherman. He grew up drawing, fishing, and listening to the tales of the men and women in the villages around him. There were stories about bootlegging, bad luck, record catches, rivalries, and drunken husbands, and in 1972, he began printmaking, using these stories as the basis for his rich pictorial language. Neville’s Intaglio prints, which are etched on copper plates, then hand inked and pulled in the traditional manner, are evocative of a way of life that has, in Neville’s words, “gone the same was as the wooden lobster trap.” But though his subject matter is nostalgic, Neville’s clean graphic representations are clearly contemporary. Neville began painting in oils (he is best known for his bold palette and abstract perspective), when he stopped making etchings over twenty years ago due to a reaction to the chemicals. Since Neville no longer produces etchings, the prints included in this exhibition represent some his last in this media, making these exceptional prints even more collectible.

“Lobster Boat, Tangerine Sky” by Stephen Pace

Stephen Pace (1918-2010) became a prominent member of the New York group of abstract expressionist painters beginning in the 1950s. His work, hailed by the New York Times for its “highly sophisticated use of color and joyous compositions,” was included in most of the Whitney annuals and at the artist-run invitations at the Stable Galley. In the 1953 Whitney Annual Exhibition of Sculpture and Works on Paper, Pace’s large watercolor was prominently hung between works by Franz Kline and Hans Hoffman and was signaled out for enthusiastic comment in Art News by Hennery McBride, who referred to the “elegant outpouring” of his paint. Beginning in the late 1950s Pace spent summer in Maine and eventually bought a home in Stonington so he could divide his time between New York City and Maine. Pace went on to paint figuratively using abstract expressionist overtones combined with subject matter from his childhood, which was spent on a farm in rural Indiana; the Maine coast with it’s working waterfront; nudes and horses. A selection of Pace’s Maine oil paintings are included in this exhibition.

Also on view in the gallery’s newly renovated annex are stainless steel sculptures by Stephen Porter, whose minimalist approach favors abstract, non-literal forms based on geometric shapes. He credits primitive art as a major influence as well as Brancusi, David Smith, and Henry Moore, among others. Porter grew up in a family of artists. His father, Eliot Porter, was a noted photographer and the brother of painter Fairfield Porter. Porter now lives in Searsmont, and maintains a studio there year round. The exhibitions will show through June 23. Courthouse Gallery Fine Art is located at 6 Court St., Ellsworth. For more information call 667-6611 or visit courthousegallery.com