by Richard Craven, SECCA Associate Curator.
February 16 through May 12, 1991, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art exhibited a retrospective of the artist's collected works.
Richard Craven, SECCA Associate Curator at the time wrote these words for the exhibition's program.
quiet pictures of Robert B. Dance primarily portray terrestrial and nautical
scenes of solitude. He is a painter of magical moments.
Robert B. Dance is not an emotional artist, nor is he the type of artist that continually searches for new techniques or ideas. His concerns are intricate and complex facets that are the basics of realist painting. Ultimately, the artist paints because of an intense reverence for nature and his adoration of the natural world. However, Dance speaks more clinically when he talks about the act of painting. He refers to the decision-making process involved in the construction of a painting. He considers himself to be a technician, one who is conspicuously aware of the problems at hand and interested in the laborious task of controlling the mechanics of building a picture. Because there is a multitude of considerations going on simultaneously in order to transfer the real world to a two-dimensional surface, there is a need for focused efforts and concentrated thinking. The artist has to deal with such elements as composition, color, light, air, space, and the shapes and forms of nature. And because the artist is a painter of realism, all of these factors must be presented in refined detail. This requires mental discipline as well as exceptional hand and eye skills. It is no incidental task to portray, in a small rectangle, the wonder of a spacious cloud formation on a summer day. It requires a precise combination of the memories of a keen observer and the application of disciplined skills in order for a two-dimensional object to communicate what it is like to witness such a moment.
It is informative to compare the work of Robert B. Dance with other successful painters who utilize the countryside and themes familiar to us in the Southeast. What Dance presents is very different from what we see with these painters. They seem to be concerned with nostalgia and the illustration of objects. It is obvious that Dance presents a better painting not only because of his superior skills an an artist, but primarily because he has an understanding of what he sees.
The artist's pursuit of harmony is epitomized in his Springtime at Reynolda. The scene depicts commonplace and typical occurrences of a spring day. The distribution of light throughout the painting is handled with absolute care and with a sense of awareness as to scale and proportion. As a result, it is instantly recognizable to those familiar with the Reynolda House grounds' massive green meadow surrounded by trees. In this work, Dance permits the viewer to look slowly in order to discover the multiple examples of human activity and to contemplate the nuances of the landscape.
Because there are several images in this exhibition of coastal scenes and small boats, it should come as no surprise that Robert B. Dance has a strong interest in sailing. He has a genuine knowledge of seamanship and it is an important, helpful factor when Dance the sailor becomes Dance the artist. He possesses an understanding and appreciation for all types of nautical craft. He has often expressed the idea that "form follows function" when describing his admiration of various small working boats and their efficient design. He is keenly aware of the general mood of the water and the condition of the sky. His boats under sail describe the movement of the wind and water. These paintings are the perceptions of one who has been out on the water and knows his subject thoroughly.
When we approach an artwork by Robert B. Dance, we are instantly drawn into the painting, convinced that looking is a worthwhile activity. The image stirs our memories of nature. Through his art we are reintroduced to the wonder of the natural world and reminded that we can still participate in the appreciation of the visible creation around us.