Profile: Russell T. Gordon (1936-2013)

Russell T. Gordon was an American painter and printmaker. He moved to Montreal in 1973 where he was a visiting professor then faculty member at Concordia University until he retired in 1998.

Early life and education

Gordon was born in Philadelphia in 1936. He received a BFA from Temple University in 1962, an MS from the University of Wisconsin in 1966 and an MFA from University of Wisconsin in 1967.[1]

As Gordon began his college career, he planned to study math while playing basketball on scholarship, but eventually changed his major to art before graduation.Gordon did play basketball professionally for a short time before focusing on his art career.

Career and work

Gordon had numerous positions in academia and institutes including as Assistant Professor at University of California-Berkeley (1969–70), Associate Professor at Mills College in Oakland, CA (1974–75), Associate Professor at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada (1975–98), Visiting Lecturer at the San Francisco Art Institute (1969–70), and positions at University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Canada (1984), Lakeside Studio, Michigan (1986, 1988) East Carolina University, North Carolina (1989).

Gordon’s work is represented in a wide variety of museums and personal collections. He has pieces at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, and the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University.

Gordon himself explains how he creates art and his art life as an artist and an art teacher and how to understand his work and elements that should be considered when watching his works. Each work of his has juxtaposition and synthesis, which are the modus operandi through which the artist shifts. He also Russell rejects “ism” and the culture of a lot of art making. He insists that it is essential to develop a capacity to make use of variety; and to understand that one can make use of the value of expression through contradiction or difference. He has been busy with this process for most of his life; it is how he comes to be who he is. He believes that images, like words, are in themselves meaningless and are resurrected in context. And abstract images are redefined in new settings and media, thereby changing their significance and at the same time, reminding us of their meaning in other situations.

Maurice Forget further says that “the essence of Gordon’s works are the organization of the pictorial space, the invention of shapes and the contrasts, conflicts, allusions, allegories and patterns which emerge from the sometimes disparate elements placed in juxtaposition.” There is a celebratory current in Gordon’s art.

Gordon’s work reflects his own social, intellectual and moral development as a man over that time, with all of his characteristics—most notably being an American black man—he searches for those universal truths which best express his own perspective on humanity. The phenomena absorbed by him—and the resulting metaphors susceptible of being followed in his work—reflect with a certain linearity the events in the artist’s own life. In breaking the bonds which tied him to the poorest parts of Philadelphia, to a city which had no understanding, let alone respect, for the activities of the intellect or the beauties of art, and to an American society in its most conservative pre-Kennedy mode, Gordon has sought and achieved in his art a freedom originating with redemption from the cliches of race and social standing, working towards a luminous vision of human life.

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