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He's 98, Partially Blind and Paints Like You Won't Believe – and He's Coming to UC


The University of Cincinnati's DAAP Galleries will present the "Hal Lasko: The Pixel Painter" exhibit through March 30. An artist reception will be held March 13. WATCH a slideshow of 15 paintings in 40 seconds.

Date: 1/30/2014 2:07:00 PM
By: Tom Robinette
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photos By: Images provided by Hal Lasko and DAAP Galleries

UC ingot   Hal Lasko's landscape artworks are the kind of backdrop Nintendo's Super Mario could only dream of bounding through.

And while Lasko's "pixel painting" might evoke memories of classic 8-bit video game design, the 98-year-old, visually impaired grandfather elevates the technique to fine art.


Lasko will bring a broad collection of his creations – landscapes, still life, abstracts – to the University of Cincinnati in February for the first solo exhibit of his pixel paintings. DAAP Galleries at UC will present "Hal Lasko: The Pixel Painter" at the Philip M. Meyers, Jr. Memorial Gallery from Feb. 3-March 30. An artist reception with Lasko, who was featured in Microsoft's "Empowering" Super Bowl XLVIII commercial, will be held from 5-7 p.m. March 13.

Maybe it's not Pablo Picasso's cubism, but Lasko’s work is no less artistic – all lovingly if a bit tediously crafted by guiding a computer mouse through a decades-old software application. Look closely enough at one of his paintings and you might find the tiny, jagged details familiar. Even so, it's hard to imagine such a level of complexity could be achieved in something as simple as Microsoft Paint. Yet Lasko's art gives proof in the pixels.

"On some of my paintings, the pixels are very prominent. And I've used that as a basis of trying to do something in the fine art area using these squares," says Lasko of Rocky River, Ohio. "That's not new. Cubism and other styles have used the square, but Microsoft Paint is such a wonderful instrument."

Aaron Cowan, program director of DAAP Galleries, reached out to Lasko after watching an Internet video about him and his artwork. Cowan felt like Lasko's paintings would fit in well at DAAP Galleries, home to exhibitions curated from all over the world.

"Whether it’s intentional or not, Hal Lasko's method ties in to a common practice where contemporary artists are using modern tools and making reference to the history of art," Cowan says. "The works that he’s making reference pointillism. And the fact that they’re done on a computer, even if not for his condition, I’d find them interesting."
Forest landscape painting by Hal Lasko
This landscape was painted by Hal Lasko with Microsoft Paint. Lasko will have a solo exhibit of his artwork at UC's DAAP Galleries beginning Feb. 3.


The condition Cowan references is wet macular degeneration. Lasko has the age-related, chronic eye disease which severely limits the center of his field of vision. It's a formidable handicap for anyone, but especially someone who'd made a living off his artist's eye.

Long before age began to take its toll on Lasko, he'd enjoyed a successful career as an artist of a different sort than what he's become. He started out as a graphic designer, working in the military during World War II drafting maps. After his military career, he worked on creative projects for several companies and eventually retired from American Greetings in the 1970s. Throughout it all he would paint at home to satisfy his artistic urges.

But the older Lasko got and the less he could see, the harder it became for him to paint. Things changed for Lasko when his family gave him a computer as an 85th birthday present.

His new PC came loaded with Microsoft Paint software. The program was developed in the '80s but gained popularity with the release of the Windows 95 operating system in 1995. In today's Age of the iPad, Paint might be viewed as more kitsch than cutting edge. But Paint's easy interface and pixel precision has allowed Lasko to journey down a new artistic path with a style that could be considered retro cool.

"When I got the computer and saw what the Paint program offered, I started a whole new career almost. It's so easy for me to handle," Lasko says. "Every time I paint on it, I'm trying to do something that's approaching fine art."

With help from his grandson Ryan, Lasko now has his own website to display his work and share his story with the world. Yet he says the upcoming solo exhibit at UC provides him with a special sense of validation, and he's looking forward to the opportunity to experience public reactions to his paintings. He hopes that people who see the exhibit will understand that age and handicaps may challenge you, but they shouldn't stop you from pursuing what you love.
Hal Lasko portrait
Hal Lasko, 98, has impaired vision but finds Microsoft Paint an excellent outlet for his creativity.


"I get a lot of assistance because of my handicaps, but I don't treat them as handicaps because I still think I can do some painting," Lasko says. "I discovered quite a long time ago that this was my thing, and I just love to paint."

For more information about the exhibit, call 513-556-2839 or email daapgalleries@uc.edu.

DAAP GALLERIES

DAAP Galleries are part of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. The galleries are intended to serve a broad and diverse audience drawn from students, faculty and staff of the university as well as from the wider Cincinnati community. Each gallery is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and has a unique focus. The Philip M. Meyers, Jr. Memorial Gallery is a venue for presenting the work of DAAP faculty and students to the university community, and hosts other exhibitions broadly reflecting the varied disciplines associated with the larger university community.