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Critique of Dick Perez’s Grover Alexander painting

Dick Perez. The official Baseball Hall of Fame artist of the 80s and 90s. I grew up collecting the Donruss cards featuring his “Diamond King” paintings with crazy backgrounds. I did my fair share of baseball portraits in grade school and high school, so in some ways Dick Perez has had a positive influence on me as an artist. (although I never copied his crazy background style).

Heralded in the baseball world as being one of the prime baseball artists, people bow down to the Dick Perez artistry. He currently self-published a book with his portrait work of baseball Hall of Famers that is selling for $200. Granted, it’s a thick comprehensive thome. But wow. $200. For a book.

For a moment let’s take a look at Dick Perez as an artist. Not as a sports artist. But simply as an artist.

Looking at Perez’s work now makes me realize how it’s often way extreme in the colors and skin tones. His work can often be overly dramatic in some areas, but then lacking in other areas. A recent example is how he makes this water cooler a larger hero than Grover Alexander. Just like any artist, you are gonna make some duds. My brother and I critiqued this painting by leaving comments on the flickr page. We are awaiting Dick Perez’s response.

Grover Alexander

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All hail Grover Alexander, the protector of the water cooler.

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The brush strokes on Grover Alexander are among the best of Perez’s work. There’s a sculptural feel to their application. (Though Alexander’s left hand lacks the same attention to the right hand.) I’d like to see more of the wall at the far right of the painting of which Alexander is leaning against. It would help add further depth to the painting without being just a slight sliver. I love the choice of subtle green behind Alexander that contrasts well with the red in his uniform.

The choice and application of the water cooler saddens me. Firstly, why even include it? Perhaps its intent is to balance the painting. The painting has a strong dynamic appeal without the cooler. Having a simple muted green wall would serve as a nice contrast to Alexander. It would have allowed the painting to breath more. That open space would reflect Alexander’s contemplative expression.

Instead we are forced to deal with an obnoxiously bright (why yellow? It clashes with everything), clumsily painted water cooler with varying degrees of detail. It awkwardly competes for attention with Alexander which is incredibly unfortunate because of how well Alexander is painted.

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I believe I have a reason why the water cooler is included. Allow me to explain: After reading a couple interviews with Dick Perez about his new incredible volume of work, “The Immortals,” he strives to capture not just the history of the players, but their uniforms, the fans, the ballparks. The water cooler in this painting is representative of the water cooler technology at the time of Grover Alexander. A glass container with a strong metal basin. Much like Grover Alexander himself with a NL-leading 90 career shutouts.

And perhaps the water bottle more than symbolic of the times. Wikipedia states about Alexander, “Always a drinker, Alexander hit the bottle particularly hard as a result of the physical and emotional injuries he sustained in the war – injuries that plagued him for the rest of his life. People often misinterpreted his seizure-related problems as drunkenness.” Interesting that in this portrait he is seated next to a water bottle.

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Unlikelymoose, you make a good point about the red and green complementary colors. It would seem that pairing should make Alexander be the primary subject of this painting. But that yellow water cooler is so intense, I would dare say this is a painting that primarily features the water cooler first, the ballplayer second.

In terms of formal qualities, Alexander is serving as an accent to the water cooler. I bet every person that looks at this painting wonders, “when will that guy get a drink of water? Why doesn’t he have any water in his hand right now? That water cooler is right there shouting for attention.”

Compositionally, even though Alexander takes up most of the frame, the water cooler still feels like it’s more dominant. Here’s part of the reason why: both Alexander and the water cooler are rooted on the ground. They both have equal status. Water cooler sits on ground. Alexander sits on ground. But notice who rises higher. Not the baseball player, he’s slouching over. But the water cooler stands taller. In fact, it stands upright. Proud. The water demands your attention.

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It would be way cool if Dick Perez responded to our comments.

If you have any additional comments about Dick Perez’s portrait of Grover Alexander, please leave your thoughts in the comments on my blog. Or maybe even post a comment on the flickr page.

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