Gear Shift

Artist Richard Carter mines turbulence in nature and opens a new Aspen gallery.
“Orogeny/Erosion Sequence,” 2021, by Richard Carter

By Steve Garbarino

Finding order in chaos isn’t new to revered Aspen artist Richard Carter, as is evident in his paintings, inspired over the years by the Bauhaus school and elements of geometry and science. His current abstract influences, evident in his Erratic series, are geology and natural phenomena such as topography influenced by global erosion, “erratics” like misplaced gigantic rock formations—the latter which is common to the Aspen area. And so during the cataclysmic pandemic, Carter, 75, saw calamity as a practical source, a stepping stone into fresh material and getting it on.

“COVID was a super-good deal for me,” says the co-founder of the Aspen Art Museum and fixture of the city since the ’70s. With his Jack Russell terrier (named June) by his side, he explains, “I had nothing else to do but work 12 hours a day. It helped me produce. The work ethic really burrowed in, and now it won’t go away,” he says from his studio along the Roaring Fork River in neighboring Basalt.

The result is not only a breadth of striking new paintings but an art gallery of his own, R. Carter Gallery, adjacent to his studio on Two Rivers Road in Basalt (by appointment only). Carter, a New Jersey native, founded the Aspen Art Museum, helping to make Aspen the cultural hub it is now.

All that work took its toll on arthritis in one hand. “I’m a manic painter,” he says. Carter, who worked as a production designer for film director Christopher Guest in the SoCal ’80s, says he is surprisingly healthy at a sturdy 75. “I’m not bragging. I mean, everybody hurts, but I’m good.”

Hot Spot Variation by Richard Carter

To take care of his health and wellness, Carter says he hikes in the high country. His favorite destination: Cupcake Lake, at 12,000 feet. “I eat a fair amount of fish and pasta—a rigatoni with pork sausage and a good red sauce. I’m not a health freak by any means. I drink great wines, mostly pinot noirs, and I love a Rhône blend. I sleep seven hours a night. I go to bed after midnight.”

His proliferation of new work, says Carter, “is good for my mental health. I studied TM for a while, and still use it to relieve stress.”

Now, mornings for this influential color theorist will be spent in Basalt at his new studio and gallery to put final touches on his space and create new works. In the circle of his career, which began in the city with his geometric Radials series, Carter now finds himself out of the bunker and into the great wide spaces of human contact. He kept the doors to the new gallery open through it all.

23400 Two Rivers Rd. #42 & #43, Basalt, CO 81612;