Rene Lichtman
Rene Lichtman (Lawrence Street Gallery)

Rene Lichtman of West Bloomfield returns to Lawrence Street Gallery in Ferndale with a collection of new abstract paintings.

A local artist had more creativity to share after Lawrence Street Gallery in Ferndale previously presented his show, “Rene Lichtman: A Retrospective 1960-2018, Paintings & Collage.” Lichtman of West Bloomfield now returns to the fine arts gallery cooperative with a collection of new abstract paintings.

His exhibit, “Chance/Choice,” opens today, May 6, and continues through May 30, including two receptions and an artist’s lecture. Admission is free. 

Interested in art since his early childhood in France, Lichtman is probably better known in the Jewish community as a founding member of the organization Hidden Children and Child Survivors of Michigan, and for speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills. He tells visitors about hiding with a Christian family during World War II before reuniting with his mother. 

Briefly, Lichtman was 13 in 1950 when he and his mother settled in Brooklyn. In 1969, he moved to Detroit for work on a documentary about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the much-praised film, Finally Got the News. He earned degrees at Wayne State University in fine arts, mass communication and a Ph.D. in instructional technology. He worked in nursing education at Beaumont Healthcare System. His family with wife, Cathy, includes three children and three grandchildren.

Energetic at 82, Lichtman continues to be a social and political activist. He uses art as “therapy and meditation. It helps with problem solving, too.”

Despite his history, the artist never pursued Holocaust themes. Lichtman, initially, was drawn to Expressionism, the artistic/literary movement that expresses emotions rather than external reality. Russian abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky, an important figure in Constructivism — an austere artistic and architectural philosophy — “was a great influence for me, in how patterns and structures evolve.” Lichtman also admires the geometric, lyrical abstract paintings of California artist Richard Diebenkorn.

Bauhaus Influence

Lichtman has praise for Bauhaus, German architect Walter Gropius’ school of design, architecture and applied arts (1918-33). The pioneering style developed there continues to influence modern design.

“The movement’s architects agreed to use principles of classical architecture in their most pure form: without ornamentation of any kind,” Lichtman explained. The work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, a follower of Bauhaus, offers “the most pure example of geometric constructivism.”

Lichtman defined his artistic style as “geometry and structure, with a painterly touch. My painting has emotional elements in terms of texture.” 

His show’s title reflects “a chance element when I begin to paint,” he said. “Then the arbitrary linear elements develop, which help me make color, design, balance, structure and choices to complete the work.” For this series, he explored what would happen after covering the surface of a blank canvas with one color.

“It forces you to make different decisions,” Lichtman said. “The relationship changes. Putting light orange on a yellow background is very different than orange on top of a white canvas.” 

“Abstract painters paint from what their eyes can’t see but their mind does,” said artist Ed Tillery, a member of Lawrence Street Gallery. “We are glad to have Rene in our studio because his abstracts are innovative and new.” 

“Chance/Choice,” Rene Lichtman New Paintings

Thursday-Sunday, through May 30

Lawrence Street Gallery
22620 Woodward, Ferndale, MI 48220

Receptions: 3-7 p.m. May 7; 2-5 p.m. May 16
Live Gallery Talk: 1:30 p.m. May 16, also on Facebook.

Phone: (248) 544-0394

lawrencestreetgallery.com