Larry Poons is as abstract as his colorful paintings, which sit in the permanent collections of some of the most important museums in the world. The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London and the Chicago Institute of Art all hold pieces from Poons’ impressive career that spans more than five decades.
The 76-year-old artist, who lives full time in New York, is in Miami to unveil his newest works at a venue that is special on a much smaller scale. His exhibit, “One and Only Just for Nature,” opens at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center in Crandon Park Sunday, with a reception from 2-5 p.m.
Poons painted nine bold canvases specifically for the nature center with the concept of drawing a parallel to nature rather than copying it, which is why the paintings “look like everything and nothing,” he says. “They are all in the nature of the thing . . . of anything . . . of everything.”
You got that?
You’ve played a role in the development of several genres of art, most importantly op art. When did you realize you were a trailblazer?
At the same time a parachute jumper realizes he isn’t dead.
Describe your show at the Biscayne Nature Center. Are you sending a message to the viewer?
It’s not a storybook. The paintings are there to be looked at, and they mean what you see. What else are they? They’re not music, which is what you hear. They’re not poetry, which is what you read. It’s obvious — paintings are meant to be looked at. If you want to be told what to think, well, I’m not in that business.
What can people expect to find in these new paintings?
It’s what your mind responds to. That’s where it’s at. There are people who don’t respond to color. That’s what painting is. It’s color. Whether it’s a crucifixion or a Barnett Newman, no one can prove to you that it’s good or that it’s bad.
How did your famous friends from the Beat generation such as Jack Kerouac inform your art? If they did, what did you learn from them?
I learned that it was possible. If you think you know where you’re going to be 10 years from now, that’s where you’re at now. You’re just putting it off.
What excites you about the art world today? Or are you nostalgic for the past when things may have been simpler?
The only thing simple about the past is that it’s not now. If you’re complaining about rough treatment, I’d say, welcome to the NFL. What did you expect? You’re going to get hit hard.
Larry Poons at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, 6767 Crandon Blvd., Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, North Beach entrance; biscaynenaturecenter.org or 305-361-6767. Free opening reception 2-5 p.m. Sunday with $6 parking fee.