Keith Mantell was raised on Long Island, New York. As a child and young adult, taking painting lessons with many local artists including Cara Cohen, Gerald Fairclough and Alfred Van Loen, he began a lifelong love and career with art. This led to an education in the arts with a B.F.A. from SUNY New Paltz and post graduate courses at The National Academy School of Fine Arts in New York and C.W. Post College. After a stint at Sotheby's and managing a gallery in Southampton NY for 10 years, it was time to get back to the creative side. Becoming a full time artist in 2007 and living the dream has proven to be the right choice.
The works of Keith Mantell hold all that is true to the art of Plein Air painting and Abstract Expressionism by capturing a moment in time and having the viewer participate in that same moment on one level and experiencing the pure joy of laying down paint in another. These paintings can be seen as two styles joined together. There are other influences and thought patterns that each piece brings to light as well. The structure in one painting sets the stage for the color. The lines and or painterly flow in another set the mood and move the eye around the picture.
The juiciness and paint strokes of these paintings evoke an 'art for arts sake' spontaneous approach. This approach, as noted by critics like Clement Greenberg as the essence of the painterly medium, along with the narrative content that marks both European and American Impressionism of the 19th and 20th century, helps Mantell advance art historical traditions. In so doing, this firmly plants him on the road that was started long ago by some ancient people leaving their handprints and drawings in ancient caves.
“As a contemporary realist inspired by the likes of Manet and Sargent to Thiebaud and Diebenkorn I use reality as a starting point and try to capture the essence of a particular scene. Design first! Then breaking down the landscape or other composition into forms and color that work together to form an interesting and cohesive composition. Taking the natural light into consideration I then let the paint decide how it wants to flow. Whether its the figure or a landscape, the painting becomes its own thing. That premise has roots in the abstract expressionist idea that it’s not about the image but about what the paint can convey. Sometimes all it takes is one brushstroke to make the point. The color may not be exactly true to life and elements may flow together but the goal is to make a fresh and spontaneous painting.”
As an accomplished figure painter now living and teaching on Long Island’s East End, the local natural beauty of the area has inspired a series of 'en plein air' paintings of vineyards, farm fields, and the beautiful coastline. “I want to capture all of these places before we lose them.”