Raised and educated on the East Coast, Liberti studied at Buffalo State College with the realist painter Jim Phalen, who had once studied with Bay Area painter Paul Wonner. Phalen, who Liberti says was his most important mentor, rarely showed his own work to his students. Because he wanted his students to find their own distinctive paths — rather than being overly influenced by his work — Phalen recommended that each student study the works of a few key artists who were right for his or her approach and temperament. He told Liberti to look at the work of Richard Diebenkorn and Frank Auerbach, both of whom became important influences.
The subject matter in Chris Liberti’s recent paintings comes from his interest in the way the forms around him can be re-configured and made to work together. Whether Liberti is painting rooflines, bookshelves, palm trees or telephone poles, he sees them not as isolated elements, but as part of a larger scheme. In his carefully carpentered compositions, Liberti joins the edges of forms and the spaces that surround them into remarkably pleasing and luminous paintings. Strikingly balanced, Liberti’s canvases manage to be both highly-organized and free at the same time. Liberti has a feeling for paradox and knows how to create unexpected harmonies of form and color.
Gesture, color and surface enliven the new harmonies and patterns Liberti creates as he works, generating a distinct back-and-forth between representation and abstraction. Although there are certainly similarities that connect his works, each completed painting stands on its own: a distinct vision that Liberti has shepherded towards a necessary and unique conclusion. Some paintings come to the edge of realism, while others feature willfully invented patterns, intersections and overlaps.