About the Artist

Self Portrait with Coffee Cup
(1983-84) acrylic on paper; 36 x 42 inches (approximate).
Syracuse, NY
TED RANDLER (b. 1959, Stamford, Connecticut) spent a large part of his childhood moving with his family to New York, Illinois and Texas before settling in Bowling Green, Virginia. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1982 and Masters of Fine Art from Syracuse University in 1985. After graduate school, he resided in New York City for a number years before relocating to Virginia.

Highly influenced by popular culture and mass media -- particularly his interest for magazines and television -- his early artwork predates the age of the internet.

As an early-adopter of desktop publishing, Randler followed a career into graphic design and publishing. His work in commercial multi-media led into video production and later development with web and mobile applications.

In 1998, along with his partner David Smitherman, Randler established Palari Publishing LLP, an independent publisher of books, magazines and web applications. Among the publications Palari launched included URGE, a regional fine arts journal that Randler led as well as contributed art criticism.

URGE later evolved into the arts section of Greater Richmond Grid a publication that Palari sold in 2010. Following the sale of the magazine, Randler moved to the Metro Washington D.C. area where he currently lives and works.

Over his years in publishing, Randler’s extensive background in digital design and virtual image manipulation supplanted his fine art efforts and traditional painting techniques. With his return to object making, he approaches painting using aspects of digital imaging combined with acrylic on canvas.

Randler creates compositions of figures on ground with a contemporary perspective that also speaks to various genres of art history.

Artist Statement

I was raised in the advertising age, when mass media and popular culture were infiltrating the local and regional influences of suburban life. Because we moved almost every three years until we settled in Bowling Green in the ‘70s, the most consistent images and narratives I had for reference came from our television and my parents’ magazines.

Family with Television
(1980-82) oil on canvas; 96 x 72 inches.
Richmond, Va
So when I look back thirty-some years to the art I created, it’s no wonder that the appropriation of iconic and mundane images from the media became the building blocks of my art. Growing up, I could render images easily and this aptitude for art provided a direction for a career that many of my peers didn’t have. When I first attended college, I was fascinated by verisimilitude and painters’ techniques like Vermeer’s of glazing layers of color over the detailed rendering to achieve the illusion of realism.

I painted interiors and peopled them with figures found from my family photos. I liked using elements from “bad” compositions—when people were inadvertently and awkwardly cropped out of the composition, or when mundane objects became the unintended focal point of snapshots.

It wasn’t until the last year at Virginia Commonwealth University that I became interested in the object-quality of paintings and the application of found imagery. I took a lithography class and became infatuated with the process as well as the dense paper required to pull the prints.

Middletown Icon 2
(1981-82) acrylic, lithography and mixed media on paper; 25 x 20 inches (approximate).
Middletown, NY
This was during the early ‘80s and the punk scene was quite vibrant. For me the punk aesthetic was based on mass produced, roughly hewed, or easily accessible artifacts and found images. There was a lot of singing/yelling about anarchy and the such. I began to try to build art from everyday items—the red of a plastic toy cowboy should be no different then the same red squeezed from a tube of acrylic paint—plus it carried with it the bonus of popular culture imprints.

When I moved to Middletown, N.Y. before I went to grad school, I began building these works that I referred to as icons—the composition of a series of smaller framed narratives formed around a central panel—much like the religious icons I had studied in school.

I would paint the central panel in a classic layering of color over the refined drawing working towards verisimilitude. Then I would compile an ornate framework of lithographs and found items in a mesh of enamel, spray paint and mixed media.

I wanted to challenge the composition of stretched canvas. So I created the paper foundation by tearing sheets of watercolor paper and pasting the shapes together with painting medium. Once the icon was completed, I built a black display panel and pinned the paintings to imitate the way museums present artifacts pinned in exhibits.

I had a show of 11 icons at Ward-Nasse gallery in N.Y. the same week I entered the graduate program at Syracuse University.

The Lucy Painting
(1983-84) acrylic and mixed media on paper; 25 x 20 inches (approximate). Originally the center panel of an Icon 96 x 72 inches [shown below].
Middletown and Syracuse, NY
“The Lucy Painting” was actually the center panel of the last icon that I completed during my first year there. The icon was large (96 x 72 inches) and the display had to be built out of PVC pipe to support it.

When I was leaving grad school I couldn’t afford to store it so I cut out the center panel, ironically creating the type of partial artifact that museums show of fragmented altars.

In grad school, I think there were only a couple painters in addition to me who were painting in a narrative format. While the postmodern aesthetic was in high gear (Robert Longo, David Salle, Julian Schnabel) in New York, in Syracuse the majority of painters were still embracing formalism.

Brice Marden and color, edge and form were being bandied about. I was having a difficult time resolving striving for illusionism and narrative while still embracing the more formal aspects of object-making aspects of paint and canvas.

You can see in the Syracuse paintings where I’m breaking the figure down to simpler elements in order to experiment with color and texture. Rendering with shadows becomes less important and the paintings become more about that way it’s being produced than what is being produced, how color and texture are used to define the figure -- compare the following works Fashion Model 2 with Coffee Cup to Businessman with Coffee Cup painted a little later that year. I’m looking at deKooning, Bonnard and Morandi.

Fashion Model 2 with Coffee Cup
(1983-84) acrylic on paper; 42 x 36 inches (approximate).
Syracuse, NY.

My professors wanted to classify my style as a type of pop art. While I was still sourcing images from pop culture, the imagery wasn’t the ironic pop of Andy Warhol, as much as simply the most relevant, accessible images that I could use for composing.

Presciently, my work with the layouts of the icons and fixation on the fashion pages of magazines anticipated my graphic design career in publishing when I began working for trade publications. When I look back at the Middletown Icons they read to me like the layout of magazine pages.

My training in classic techniques in painting went hand-in-hand with working with images in Photoshop. With ease and accessibility of rendering realistic images, the challenge of verisimilitude almost became moot. One never had to struggle with media and the replication of images was practically endless.

But over the years, with all of my images either being trapped behind the glass of a computer screen or reduced to CMYK process ink--and in witnessing today’s barrage of images on the internet--I get what my fellow formalists were embracing about paintings being unique objects. The event of standing before the painting in full pigment and studying the work wasn’t the same as the image of the work translated to print or on a computer screen.

Businessman with Coffee Cup
(1984-85) acrylic, sand on paper; 36 x 42 inches (approximate).
Syracuse, NY
So I’ve returned to the easel. I still compose on the computer, but I create art at the easel. I love the painterly quality of creating with color and edge but also like the poetic engineering that artist creates when rendering a narrative. I like to create an object that when viewed close up provides a completely different aesthetic experience than the illusion that is created from viewing further back.

In digital art, images are broken down to pixels, much like pointillism. The magic of illusionism happens because the computer pixels are arranged in groups and compressed (presented at a distance) on the screen to create an image.

I decided to mimic the process of rendering but also embrace the painterly aspects of making a mark. It’s not pointillism where the illusion of what is being painted is most effective at a distance and the daubs of paint are viewed as a means to an end.

Because of the dense combination of pigment and medium, each mark that I make, each brushstroke dries as an object with unique characteristics that are just as compelling as the illusion created by their optical fusion from a distance. Also I like the challenge of illustrating light with the glow of the hue and saturation of color. Each painting seems to have its own pigment glow that sometimes complements, and at other turns, challenges the light I'm trying to portray.

She found herself in Palm Springs and took comfort in buying small items she didn't want or need as she thought of all the things she should have said.
(2014); gouache on paper; 9x12.125 inches.
Palm Springs, CA
Drawing requires the flat arrangement of hue and edge rather than blending the contrast of light and shadow. So while adhering to the object-making aspects of painting I can also render events of verisimilitude, it’s a balancing act of image rendering and object making.