The color field paintings of Thomas Stokes evidence a mastery of composition, order, and painterly values. Characterized by luminous fields of delicate coloration strained in thin layers across their picture planes, the artists’ works harmonize unbroken surfaces and serene formats. Their expansive horizontality evokes abstracted landscapes that are at once absolute and ambiguous.
Eschewing the frenetic brushwork and heroic gesturalism of Abstract Expressionism, Stokes’ aesthetic strategies privilege balance over brashness – sustaining gradual, rather than immediate, comprehension. Slyly illusionistic, his paintings also depart from Color Field abstraction’s customary allocation of all visual attention to the surface of the picture plane. By pointing out subtle deceptions – suggestions of depth and volume – the artist alerts viewers to the confluence between the internal and the external, knowing and seeing, ideation and physicality.
For Stokes, the way to truth is the power of illusion, instructing us that what we see is not what we see. As the trailblazing New York gallerist Betty Parsons once remarked of the artist, one whom she represented and advocated passionately, “There are many voices to be heard, and Tommy’s is pure poetry.”
Born in New York City on March 15, 1934, Thomas Stokes was raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Having returned to New York in the 1950s, he would emerge during the 1960s as the last major artist discovered by Betty Parsons over the course of her storied career. Subsequently living in London, Los Angeles, and Roswell, Stokes settled in Santa Fe in 1986. A significant figure in the history of 20th century abstraction, the artist’s works have been exhibited in numerous museums and collected by significant private collections internationally. Thomas Stokes continued to refine his subtly colored, meditative canvases until his death in 1993.