I’m 71 as I write this in 2018. Born in 1947, I became a child of the 60s’ very messy counterculture, which, in my twenties, gave me an easy opportunity for extended experimentation with consciousness-expanding plants and chemicals. Eastern philosophy became important to many of us in that counterculture, often because of such experimentation. Since those heady days, all the phases of my professional artistic development have been concerned with higher and deeper levels of awareness, and my work has always reflected my emotional spiritual journey.

All through my school years I concentrated on figurative painting and drawing. I simply lost that interest in 1969, and by the spring of 1971 I was painting abstract paintings with a kind of ballet-like movement of shapes in space. Miro and Matisse (especially his Jazz cut-outs) were the background, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 - the space station and the shuttle, to Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube.

Around this time, a dear painter friend was making wonderful advances in his work, which was intense, energetic, and structurally very complex. I responded to the challenge his painting presented. Again I looked to 2001, but this time I looked to the time-warp journey of dazzling color that ends with the dying time of Kubrick’s aging star-child-to-be. This is when I first experimented with bringing gravity’s grounding pull into my paint drawing – starting with a loaded brushful of color.

But then, late in 1971, my dazzling color world suddenly imploded into a very dark place where I spent nearly a decade. I was 24 when I first became symptomatic for bipolar disorder. Over most of that decade my life collapsed: multiple mental institutions, several prison stays, occasional homelessness, and suicide attempts. But a support system of people who never gave up on me ultimately helped me win the new beginnings of a renewed life. Now, in my seventy-second year, twenty-two years after my love Marion and I began finding ourselves together through our fifties and sixties, my life is bright with purpose, balance, and joy.

In 1980, at 33, I began to paint constantly again. My mindset was to use my painting process to ground myself - to create solid structured paintings for a solid structured me. The paintings I did from ’80 to ‘82 - on the Convergence and Emergence pages of the website - were never intended to express the emotional pain I had been through during the previous decade. I was consciously intent on being in the present and looking forward to the future. Recently, however, I began looking at those paintings again, and I can see now that their expressive force flowed directly out of that psychological hollowing-out and descent into a solipsistic universe of my own madness, and the pain I had caused others and myself. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but that emotional experience is certainly heartfelt in those 1980 to ‘82 paintings.

In the paintings that followed, from 1983 to 1989 - on the Gifts to the Universe page - I further developed the pouring and spraying paint-handling techniques that I used in the Convergence and Emergence paintings from ’80 to ‘82, but to create much more freely improvisational compositions, with much more complex structures. Still, through all the emotional development in my paintings from ‘80 to ’89 (as my thirties became my forties),  I did consistently combine the expressionist composition and acrylic painting technique which are the basic elements of my painting today.

I use the terms expressionist composition or expressionist painting because they emphasize – to put it simply - that a particular painter’s explicit primary intention is direct emotional self-expression.  My favorite definitive examples of expressionism in the abstract painting tradition are the Abstract Expressionism of Pollock and Rothko. Throughout my ‘80 to ‘89 paintings, I combined my expressionist composition of shapes and colors with the acrylic painting technique of overlapping poured and sprayed paint-handling (which art-store acrylics first made possible in the 1960s), especially poured paint-handling that uses gravity to draw new paint-shapes that show the passing of time.

Through the 1983 to ‘89 period I was looking hard at Picasso, Pollock, and Matisse. My reading in those days concentrated on layman’s books on quantum physics, relativity theory, astrophysics, consciousness (psychoanalysis, shamanism, New Age literature), and science fiction. I view these paintings as macro/micro images of a kind of cosmic consciousness, intellectually and intuitively developed through my reading, with the kind of energy and complexity that I was searching for back in 1971.

By the end of 1989, after 7 years of having wondrous fun with this compositional and technical liberation and intellectual discovery, the inspiration faded out. I consciously decided to go forward without all the intellectual influence, and began to paint entirely intuitively.

About a year later, I began to work exclusively with paint and oil stick on paper. And then, one day in 1991, at 44, I finished a work on paper in my studio and felt compelled to go meditate. I sat for half an hour, and so began my 27 years, so far, of meditation practice. And not long after that, part of the time I spend meditating became a place of visualizing images to paint. Intuitive painting led to meditating led to seeing images to paint.

The two years of paint and oil stick on paper led to two years of Chinese brush and ink on rice paper, which led to two years of paint on patterned papers. At the beginning of these six years of paper works, from 1991 to 1997, the one crucial ground rule I gave myself was not to think that I was making art. This was going to be an open ended journey to I didn’t know where, and showing these works on paper was not to be part of the process.

Then, in the Summer of 1997 - around the same time that I committed to practice with a Guru - I saw my way to making bigger paintings again. Much in the preceding paper works became imagery for these paintings. From 1997 through 2001 my new visual vocabulary was fabric on a sprayed field on canvas, with marks on and around the fabric. The fabric was always centered. When I then dispensed with the fabric, I kept the simple drawn image and its centeredness for two years, 2002 and 2003.

My spiritual practice had become the ground through which my Western abstract painting bubbled up. And in 2004 I saw a new, elementally simple composition form that felt vastly spacious to me, drew my attention very gently but very strongly, and was certainly distilled by my thirteen years of meditating. The form was just a central dot between two symmetrically-placed sets of two parallel vertical lines, painted on a horizontal rectangular sprayed field - on the Stillpoint Paintings page. This form felt so right to me that I painted it repeatedly, for over four years, watching its colors change.

The Stillpoint Paintings ended abruptly in 2008 when I received a phone call that my mother had died - suddenly and unexpectedly. At my father’s passing eleven years earlier, he had endured a prolonged illness, the family was at his bedside, and I had closure. After my mother’s passing, however, I found that I needed to paint my way to closure. I mourned in paint with varying degrees of grief from 2008 to 2012. Those paintings are on the Grief and After page and I’ll let them speak for themselves.

With the New Chapter paintings, from 2013 to 2017, I developed, simplified, and concentrated the visual vocabulary that I had discovered throughout the mourning process. I moved on with that new vocabulary, to express my new, freer awareness - the expression of Spirit, of a lived life with its successes and defeats, somehow set free in an expanded space referenced in the cosmos by a primordial disc. These paintings, to me, seem to be a kind of futuristic sci-fi haiku.

In formal painting terms, my eleven 2017 paintings - the six paintings of the Diogenes at the White House series and the five paintings of the American Nightmare Suite – do continue with the visual vocabulary that I developed in the New Chapter paintings. But these paintings depart radically from the development of my painting before and after in their original emotional impulse. All eleven were intended to briefly but immediately express my constantly intensifying alarm at America’s social and political disintegration.

The now-decades-long gradual surrender of our mid-20th-century national belief in a new, science-informed, ever-more-reciprocal common future - to a science-ignorant, future-blind, other-hating fear of change, does continue. But so does the increasing protest in support of fairness, honesty, decency, and an economy that respects what the natural environment is showing us. I, however, have returned to simply sharing, as best I can, the kind of truth and beauty I see and feel throughout our seven-hundred-year-old, socially evolving western painting tradition, by expressing my personal spiritual journey in acrylic paint on canvas.

In 2016 I received a diagnosis of prostate cancer. I was advised, convincingly, to take the mainstream medical approach of radiation therapy, and thanks to our contemporary science, I’m now cancer-free. (What a charged phrase that is.) But I also, simultaneously, adopted a complementary alternative approach – a new, very strict anti-cancer diet, plus a daily supplements program and a vigorous exercise regimen – all for the rest of my life. And it turns out that the alternative approach has brought a wonderful new clarity to my awareness, and joy in my physical being. These are interesting times.


I’m blessed with an abundance of multi-talented friends. A bunch of them were kind enough to read my draft of this bio and help me find much better words to show and tell you my story. I’m grateful for their support of my work and their caring understanding. Thank you for looking and listening.


By Peter Frank

The world is always with us, and even the purest, the most reductive, the most spiritually driven of abstract artists reflect their time, if only by speaking the particular symbolic languages of their era. The pioneer non-objective painters of the modern era, from Kandinsky and Mondrian to Hilma af Klint, very deliberately articulated their inner visions, driven as they were by a Victorian propriety and mystic faith in science. The abstract expressionists hewed to a more reactive gesture, a theatrical sweep that existentially conflated personal and public turmoil. Today, in the face of ecological doom and the loss of faith in institutional integrity, abstract art often seems empty and exhausted; but its most vital practitioners serve as exemplars not of ennui and despair but of forthrightness and rigor. The recent paintings of Lester Rapaport manifest such clarity and honesty. They come from deep inside the artist, but they speak to the world around him with both anger and charm, fright and resolution, loss and rediscovery.

By his own account, Rapaport turned from figuration to abstraction at the turn of the 1960s, absorbing the era’s tumultuous sense of experiment but never losing sight of modernist models such as Matisse and Miro. An ensuing decade of personal struggle culminated in a return to painting around 1980, and throughout that decade Rapaport engaged in an increasingly complex exploration of form and color. The discovery – or, more accurately, rediscovery – of spiritual practice, notably meditation, served to cool and simplify Rapaport’s style, until it solidified into the monumental formula(s) upon which his current and recent series are based.

The significant thing about these latter-day paintings, no matter what their political or (otherwise) symbolic resonance, is the vastness of their formal potential – not just the potential of the compositional patterning or of the palette, but of the relationship between elements. The given structure that defines any one series, firm as it appears, in fact yields to and supports broad experimentation with placement, color, and shape. Basic planar relationships may be fixed – the single orb may rest to the right of the squared-off source of dripping paint, while the double orb surrounds the square element – but the shifts in color have a visceral impact almost as intense as weather, while variations on the structural formula, no matter how small, change the entire rhythm of the overall image.

It is perhaps odd to talk of “rhythm” with regard to these pared-down, emblem-like paintings. But it’s precisely their openness that amplifies shifts in planar relationships (not to mention in hue and tone), making us aware of the “beat” that comes with every deviation from the template. In this regard, Rapaport’s recent paintings take up where the “burst” paintings of Adolph Gottlieb left off. Having refined his Action-painting gesturalism into a stylized, indeed minimized, landscape format, wherein the “sky” was embodied in an orb of some kind and the “earth” in a tangle of brushstrokes, Gottlieb devoted the last two decades of his life to this iconic contraposition. Rapaport’s focus is similarly intense, and even more reliant on the fixity and seeming interchangeability of elements (emphasis on the “seeming”). Rapaport’s other strong exterior connection in his current work is to Tantric painting, the simple high-chroma abstract designs tantric practitioners in India, Tibet, et al, focused on as visual mantras. The recurrence in Tantric art of certain kinds of forms – ovals, for instance – and on saturated color echoes in series such as “American Nightmare” and “Diogenes at the White House.”

As can be intuited from such series titles, the condition not just of the world but of the nation rests heavily on Rapaport’s mind. No meditation changes his view of matters, but changes only his resolve to effect improvement while transcending mundane conditions. For the last decade the twinned practices of painting and meditating have brought Rapaport through the trauma of loss (“Grief and After”), the process of rediscovery and reaffirmation (“A New Chapter”), and social address (as in the series named above). Rapaport does not invite us to “read” his paintings as political statements, however, so much as experience them as spiritual and emotional space. They are not commentary, they are reflection on and refinement of observation. They are bridges, or more to the point conduits, between what is seen (and known) and what is felt. They are also signals from Rapaport to us, inviting us into his realm of experience, a realm distilled into painted apparitions. Thus, the sense of urgency that hovers around Lester Rapaport’s art, offset by an equally emphatic sense of calm resolve.

Los Angeles
November 2018

Recent Thoughts 2020

Authenticity of experience of the human condition and Emergence of the Self

How do you turn emotion into knowledge
Ornette Coleman

When there’s nothing to do do nothing
Karen Kamensek conductor of Akhnaten

We are the beings whose being is in question John Vervaeke

I am attempting to transform and communicate my continually evolving soul states into aesthetic experiences-holding the belief that that is an absolute good for me as well as for those who are able to access enjoy identify and appreciate these experiences in my art.

In the early Convergence paintings there are four symmetrical wedge shapes with paint flowing outwards from the center to the right and left and top and bottom. These paintings are a very structured assertion of being coming after years of psychological collapse in which I was a burnt out shell of a human being, passed hopelessness and passed despair.

After integrating the strength and centeredness from the early Convergence paintings, paintings like She and Da and Shadow of the Primal Father and Affair were an act of actualizing from the chthonic mud that we all share and through painting it seeing through and beyond it.

The Emergence paintings which came next only after I had integrated the Convergence paintings were a celebratory expression of rebirth. The primal star shaped bio-organism-like central image in these paintings is propulsive with an awakened sense of becoming and aliveness.

A part of all these paintings is their poetic relationship to time - sometimes flowing streaming expanding sometimes dramatically exclaiming the dark mystery of time and sometimes so alive it shoots forth. There was a great drama in these series-they evolved out of a deep intense psychological need and were an avenue towards profound growth and new beginnings.

The paintings labeled Gifts to the Universe that proceeded after the Emergence paintings are about stepping into a world space-a cosmic world space as well as the deep vast internal complex of us.

These 7 years of paintings are the most information dense paintings so far that I have attempted. They are also the most cognitively informed as well as a whole hearted response to a group of paintings I saw by an American-Canadian fellow artist in Ontario circa 1971. My response was that I began to dramatically shift my emotional and cognitive realities-reflected in my studio practice to plumb deeper into inner being.

The cognitive background for these paintings was more than two decades of reading layman’s books on relativity theory, quantum physics, astrophysics, psychology and higher states of consciousness as well as some really wonderful science fiction.

The paintings are layered - each paint layer differently applied. From a chthonic pouring to spraying solid color of masked quadrilaterals to a kind of ephemeral linear spraying. The significance of each layer is different. The pour references dense materiality, the very physicalness of being. Because there are no straight lines in nature the quadrilaterals reference our mental processes. But also their groupings with multiple perspective points is a poetic reference to the time-space continuum of relativity theory and our newer understanding of gravity. Finally the linear spray which from 1985 on was the final element added creates an evanescent almost spiritual scrim through which one sees through to the whole painting.

The visual comprehension of the differently painted and separate layers creates an expansive deep and unique experience that makes for a complex compounded emotionally and intellectually dense poetic painting.

We participate in making ourselves and after my joyous seven years with this series and exploring these visual/intellectual problems, the inspiration dried up I think because the problems posed were essentially absorbed.

What I did next was to purposely jump into the sea of painting purely intuitively which after a little more than a year led me to meditation and that then became the vehicle for my evolving intuitive approach.

Over a decade later with a very solid meditation practice and a guru I created a composition that was so compelling that I repeated it with only minimal changes of color and texture for four years-the Stillpoint Series. It was a distillation and visualization of what meditation was for me up till then.

Four years into this series in 2008 my Mother died suddenly while I was vacationing. Because I had no closure as I had with my Father who died with all of us at his hospital bedside after a prolonged illness years before, I immediately stopped the Stillpoint paintings and began to paint my grieving for my Mom. I did this for five years and the progression from deep mourning gradually yielded to a new open space in which I used the vocabulary that I had created for painting my grief to now be used for a kind of hybrid abstraction that has a central poured image and one or more discs.

I’m beginning to understand this new direction as one in which the expanded meditative space I was getting at in the Stillpoint paintings became the profoundly important background for an existential drama between a central poured spirit-like presence and the disc or discs with their primal moon sun planet-ness. The New Chapter paintings. The simplicity of parts allowed for renewed ebullient color interactions (as a young art student I most immediately resonated with Matisse and Fauvism). The relationship between sprayed background field, disc and poured central figure is story-like, anecdotal with color and composition melding in an airy open ended visual experience.

The New Chapter paintings and the Waking Up paintings that came after are similar in some obvious ways and different in some ways that create a qualitatively different experience. The discs importantly are bigger and placed symmetrically on either side of the poured figure/presence in the Waking Up paintings. Because of this the composition creates an immediacy and a kind of frontal all at once experience of background field discs and poured figure. The background field is less of a place of visual gentle airiness but part of a more dynamic complex of color interactions that operate on a subjective and non-verbal expressive level that is much more potent and expansive. The poured central figure in both the New Chapter and the Waking Up paintings has roots in the 1980’s Convergence paintings and the Grief and After paintings and importantly there is an underlying element of soul struggle inherently in these spirit forms. The artistic movement from the symmetrical meditative Stillpoint paintings through to the symmetrical Waking Up paintings is at the same time a measure of the successes of my deepening spiritual practice but also an integral part of that practice itself.

Finally the new central single disc paintings are the presenting of the disc as a primal mystery with emotive color relationships between disc, background, and horizontal mist-like band. The strength of the compositional simplicity with the strong and dynamic color interaction gives these paintings a hereness and nowness and a centering and opening out of awareness that is open hearted and optimistic. The color work-which is essential to their success-is post Matisse post Morris Louis post Kenneth Noland, but the substance is post Mondrian and post Agnes Martin.


1947 Born January 7, Brooklyn, New York

1963-67 Hunter College, B. F. A.

1967 William Graff Scholarship for graduate study

1967-69 Hunter Graduate School, M. A. Program