Here is a shortened version of my conversation with the very personable and inspiring Roland Reiss, edited down from the original 10 minute version:
Roland Reiss is a Los Angeles-based artist & professor emeritus at Claremont Graduate University in California, where for two decades he was chair of the MFA program, transforming it into a creative workshop, equal in ambition and innovation to the best institutions out there.
He has exhibited world-wide since the 70s and has for over 50 years stood out as an art theorist and explorer who makes risky, creative leaps. Roland believes that abstraction is the primary way in which human beings understand their world.
He has had the unusual honor of receiving four NEA Visual Artists Fellowships and a Lifetime Achievement Award from LA Art Core.
I met Roland at his wonderful artists loft overlooking the downtown LA skyline where he lives with his wife and fellow artist, Dawn Arrowsmith and continues to investigate the contemporary via his reknowned work, which has evolved through many mediums from large scale sculpture to small scale design, including his internationally acclaimed quasi-anthropological dioramas which he is best known for. A major survey of this work became an exhibition traveling from the los angeles municipal art gallery on to Arizona, New York and back to Palm Springs, california. I like this one which spells out ‘muse’. And yet, soon afterwards, he turned away from this body of work and has now been painting for 20 years, experimenting with how the canvas is variously defined.
Roland Reiss is an academic visionary and pioneer in setting standards in higher arts education. he was honored for this in 2009, receiving the DISTINGUISHED TEACHING OF ART AWARD from the college art association
A peer of his had this to say: ‘teachers like this—smart, warm, generous, and talented—are to be prized.’ His students carrying on his legacy as critically and expressively engaged artists, educators, and creative thinkers.
Roland retired in 2001 from Claremont Graduate University, but that same year he launched the Painting’s Edge program at Idyllwild Arts, a two-week forum in the San Jacinto Mountains that painters and critics say is the best idea exchange of its kind with some of the world’s most influential practitioners and critics.
Rolands exhibition record is international, encyclopedic and is still building momentum. He has shown at Whitney Museum of American Art, Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and museums in Brazil, Mexico, China, Canada, Italy, Germany, Japan and Taiwan.