March 12, 1933 — Jan. 29, 2019
"Looking at a painting by Richard Gubernick is one way to spark a lazy mind," Buffalo News Art Critic Richard Huntington wrote in 1992. "His latest abstractions are seeming jumbles of shapes and lines locked in erratic colored patterns set in black.
"No sooner does the eye pick up one circuit of color than another snaps in, in a kind of visual short circuit. Gubernick's art demands not only alertness but intelligence. You can't just passively look; you have to think as well."
Mr. Gubernick, of Buffalo, who spent 60 years as a working visual artist, died Jan. 29 in Buffalo General Medical Center of respiratory failure after being a patient for three weeks. He was 85.
"Richard was well-loved and respected in the arts community here," said his wife, Barbara Buckman, a professor of fine arts at Niagara County Community College and a professional artist.
He was born in New York City, the younger son of Jack Gubernick and Irene Rosenthal Gubernick, who operated a clothing factory in Queens.
While a student at Taft High School in the Bronx, he attended classes at the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Students League and City College. He earned a bachelor's degree from Buffalo State College in 1955, and attended the Yale School of Music and Art in 1954. He completed a master's of fine arts degree in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
From 1955 to 1959, he served in the Army in Stuttgart, Germany, where he was part of a Counterintelligence Unit. In 1955, he also began his career as a self-employed artist. His works eventually included intricate drawings, abstract paintings, constructions and reliquaries, which included plastic packaging materials and found objects.
In 1969, he was hired to teach in the Fine Arts Department at Buffalo State, where he became a full professor.
"He enjoyed teaching very much," said his wife. "He especially liked working with serious young artists. He took many people under his wing over the years who then went on to become professional artists themselves."
He and Barbara Buckman married in New York City on Aug. 8, 1988 — 8/8/88, "a very auspicious date," she said. She had been a painting student of his, and they kept in touch as she moved to New York for graduate school. "We reconnected several years later and our life together started," she said.
In 1992, Huntington wrote of Mr. Gubernick's work, "In his hands geometry can have the complicated and twisted personality of a medieval illuminated manuscript. Or it can appear to be a relatively calm demonstration of a constellation-sized game of connect the dots.
"This doesn't mean that Gubernick's acrylics are at all random inventions. On the contrary, every tiny chip of color — all the explosions of confetti that he adds to his backgrounds — fits neatly into the big puzzle that is the composition itself."
Mr. Gubernick retired from Buffalo State in 1995 and then split his time between Buffalo and Youngsville, in the Catskills, working full-time as an artist.
He exhibited his work extensively through the years. His most recent exhibit was at the Nina Freudenheim Gallery in Buffalo from October through mid-January.
Mr. Gubernick also exhibited at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield Penney Art Center and the Anderson Gallery in Buffalo, which all hold his work in their collections; the Albright-Knox has four.
He completed several public art commissions, including a whimsical, brightly colored, 41-foot-long enameled aluminum sculpture titled "Scramble" that is mounted on a wall in the LaSalle Metro Station.
Mr. Gubernick also completed abstract works for the Tufts Medical Center Station of the MBTA Orange Line in Boston, Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix and the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Mr. Gubernick's work is included in the collections of the Bethlehem Steel Corp., Knight Publishing Corp., the Burchfield Penney Art Center Foundation, the Westinghouse Corp. and many others.
Besides Buffalo and the Catskills, he had dozens of one-person shows in Pennsylvania, Michigan, California, Boston, Toronto and Washington, D.C.
He traveled widely, visiting most of the countries of Western Europe and parts of South America, Africa and Asia. His travels on China's historic Silk Road and along the Nile in Egypt were influential experiences in his life and work.
Mr. Gubernick supported many charitable organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders and, most recently, organizations working to reunite families separated at the southern border. In his memory, Mr. Gubernick's family requests donations to TexasCivilRightsProject.org or Journeys End at jersbuffalo.org.
In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Evan; a daughter, Jenny Parker; a brother, Joel; and four grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for the spring.