Monday, December 28, 2009

Alfred DeCredico, 1944-2009

Alfred DeCredico, "Landscape in Color #2," 2005. Mixed media on canvas, 31" x 25."

It felt like a punch in the stomach when I heard that Al DeCredico died this past weekend. We hadn't spoken for years, but I somehow thought he would always be around if I wanted to talk to him. He was bigger than life in every category.

I started at RISD In September of 1983, and in the first semester of my freshman year I was lucky enough to draw Al for 2D. I didn't know who he was, I didn't know what 2D was, and I didn't have any idea what the fuck art was for that matter - I was a dummy from a working class suburb with a certain flair for drawing. Al is the guy who showed me how to see and think and make things like an artist. I felt like my head was splitting open and loved every minute of it.

He was arrogant, brilliant, foul-mouthed, and had an awesome command of a huge variety of media: he was a painter with a stunning facility, but also made sculpture, reliquary boxes, prints, drawings, ceramics, and blown glass. He expected you to make things just as well as him, and would tell in no uncertain terms when he thought you were bullshitting.

When I got the chance to teach 2D in 2007, the first person I thought of was Al. I hoped I could do it like him; take a bunch of teenagers and show them what art was, why it was important, make them really feel it the way he made us really feel it.

Al showed me that the dreary mediocrity of everyday life wasn't the only way - there were whole worlds you could open with you skill and imagination and commitment. How do you thank somebody for something like that?