Sitting in a conference room at the office of his home building company in Rye, Robert Georgio joked he is a little concerned he may be confusing Google.
The Rye resident recently launched the third initiative bearing his name, Robert Georgio Art, through which he will promote two separate series of contemporary paintings he has developed over the past five years.
Georgio is best known in Westchester County’s business circles for Georgio Home, the top result on his Google search. The luxury-focused home construction and interior design company builds about a dozen homes each year on the eastern side of Westchester and parts of Fairfield County.
Recently built homes the company is marketing range between $2 million and $5 million. Georgio launched the home company in 2001 following a career running shoe retail and design stores, known as Georgio Shoes.
Now in his mid-50s, the builder is transitioning into another pursuit, painting, one in which he has immersed himself for the past half decade to become self-taught.
Art, he said, has provided an outlet for creativity outside of the more disciplined, budget-focused home building. He has built his skill and style through hundreds of paintings in a studio he built in the attic of his former home, and in the basement of his
“I lose myself in the time … I can go down to my studio at 8 in the morning and suddenly look at my watch and it’s 5 o’clock and I’ll think, ‘I didn’t even eat lunch. Did I have breakfast?’ ” Georgio said. “Nothing I’ve ever done has had that effect.”
Georgio started running high-end shoe retail stores at age 21 and eventually owned and operated eight stores in the New York metro area. As he opened more stores, his interest in the brick-and-mortar design of each location grew.
“I found myself to be a contractor: ‘We’re going to rip this HVAC out. We’re going to put a new storefront on. This foundation looks shabby,’ ” Georgio described himself saying. “I inherently learned how to build.”
He was approached to invest in a real estate project and eventually moved into home construction and development full time at the turn of the century, launching Georgio Home. The company operates out of a showroom and office building on Theodore Fremd Avenue in downtown Rye.
Real estate is a family business. His wife, Patricia, and one of his daughters, Jillian, run an interior design company, Patricia Georgio Designs, within the Georgio Home brand. His other daughter, Chelsea, is an agent for Houlihan Lawrence and represents Georgio Home properties.
It was while working on a custom luxury home in Rye that Robert Georgio’s passion for painting was born. As he described it, the home was essentially designed around his client’s rare art collection, with the lighting and walls optimized to display rare pieces.
“When they wheeled the art in when I was done, it just blew me away,” Georgio said. “It was all abstract, vivid in color, but tranquil. I just got lost in the art.”
He said he became obsessed with understanding the history of the artists and their methods, “but I never desired to go out to buy it or save for my first painting. I wanted to paint.” His listed inspirations include Frank Stella, Mel Bochner, Helen Frankenthaler and Andy Warhol.
It was in 2013 that he first gave painting a try. He drove to a paint store near his home in Rye to pick up materials and spent a weekend experimenting.
“It was just a stack of cheap canvases and a starter kit of acrylic paint,” Georgio said. “And I played with it and fell in love with the smell, the texture, the whole feeling of it.”
Rather than go for a paintbrush, he started experimenting with applying paint using different tools, such as 6-foot-long pallet knives he covers in paint and drags along the canvas. As he began to work on more pieces, his builder side kicked in. He decided to renovate the attic of his previous home in Rye to an artist studio. “I would spend any free minute I had there and began to focus in on what I liked.”
He’s spent the years since that first work honing his craft, attending art shows and building his portfolio. He moved last year and built a basement workspace he described as a Manhattan-style loft studio with 11-foot ceilings and all white walls, stocked with top-quality paints, his custom equipment and a wall mount that allows him to rotate a canvas as he works.
Georgio’s art is made through a laborious process. He uses thick acrylic paint that he pulls and scrapes to unveil distinct layers for his “Energy” series, utilizing a resin and silver leaf finish to add a glossy vibrancy to each piece. His other series, “Motion,” uses 6-foot brushes and pallet knives to dig or etch movements in thick layers of monochromatic oil paint. The method creates, as he described in an artist statement, striations that “catch and reflect light while the rhythmic textures of the oil elicit a sense of motion.”
Georgio said he reached this year the point where he is comfortable showing his work. That includes launching a promotional website and, recently, putting his art on display at an open house for a home he built. He has also started meeting with art gallery curators for consideration. His art already hangs in hotels, restaurants and with private collectors.