A Small Radius of Light: G. Daniel Massad, A Retrospective

September 25 - December 9, 2018

Contemporary artist G. Daniel Massad has dedicated the better part of the last four decades to depicting the world around him. His poetic, meticulously detailed still lifes, rendered in the unexpected medium of pastel, call to mind the work of the Old Masters and can be found in major museum collections across the country.  


This retrospective explored the full gamut of Massad’s oeuvre, beginning with academic realist drawings produced during his college years at Princeton University in the late 1960s. While earning his M.F.A. at the University of Kansas in the early 1980s, Massad explored a variety of options, ultimately making an unexpected shift from abstraction to still life, and from oil to pastel as a painting medium. His abandonment of painterly gesture for knife-edge precisionism led him later in that decade to the painstaking reenactment of minute detail in order to express, as he puts it, “the way I encounter the world.”  


Since 1990, still life’s traditional tabletop and its implied interior space have given way in his work to less easily definable architectural fragments of brick or stone; the darkness surrounding these broken walls and cairns is deep, immeasurable, and richly potent. Over the last two decades, Massad has moved past description and metaphor, layering into his images other kinds of data—maps, words, numbers, constellations, personal symbols—all of which suggest readings of his remarkable still lifes as aniconic (non-figurative) portraiture, implied narrative, and visual autobiography.  


Accompanied by a major publication, this loan exhibition featured signature works borrowed from public as well as private collections. Also on view were many of the enticing objects featured in Massad’s still lifes—the “ordinary things” drawn from the studio and home of this remarkable artist who wields shards of pastel rather than paintbrushes.  


Organized by the Palmer Museum of Art.