Remembering DC artist Robert Novel

Robert Novel, Hemphill Fine Arts, installation view, 2022

Robert Novel passed away on March 31, 2021. His friend Julie Wolfe reached out to us recently, and the following remembrance was provided by Hemphill Fine Arts, their mutual gallery.

Robert Novel (American, 1943-2021) was born in New York City, studied painting and sculpture at
the School of Visual Arts, New York, and printmaking at the Printmaker’s Workshop in Washington
DC. He participated in Art Now 74 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, where he
collaborated with artist Robert Irwin on the installation of a site-specific work. The following year in
1975, a solo show at Hard Art Gallery in Washington, DC featured Novel’s sculpture and video art,
and his sculpture was exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In 1976, he participated as a
member of the Sponsors Committee for the opening of P.S. 1 in Long Island City, New York.
Novel’s work was exhibited at P Street Gallerie, Washington DC in the exhibition ‘Translation Not
Required” in 2015, and at Gensler Architects, Washington DC in 2016.

Robert Novel, Untitled, c. 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 inches
Robert Novel, Untitled, c. 2020, acrylic on linen, 12 x 12 inches
Robert Novel, installation view, Hemphill

Throughout the last decade, Robert completed over one hundred and fifty paintings in a
limited palette ranging from white to soft gray to black, often incorporating raw canvas or linen as a
compositional element of the work. The nuance and rawness of the visible linen or canvas contrasts
the flat application of pigment and the strength of the geometric forms. Novel’s reflection on
geometric abstraction and the unfolding experimentation of a single variation from one painting to
the next brings a deep feeling of calm, and the repetition of visual motifs becomes a performance.

This past summer, Hemphill presented an expansive solo exhibition of paintings Novel made between 2015 and 2020. A digital catalogue of the exhibition is available here.

He will be greatly missed by the artists in DC and the Hemphill community.

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