Kloosterboer on Formation
Formation is an exhibition presented in conjunction with a special issue of PoetsArtists Magazine featuring works by Erin Anderson, Erica Elan Ciganek, Michelle Doll, Heidi Elbers, Shana Levenson, Sylvia Maier, Jenny Morgan, Sarah Muirhead, Omalix, Lee Price, Nadine Robbins, and Victoria Selbach.
These artists’ distinctive styles of capturing the human figure offer a wonderful anthology illustrating tangible and intangible aspects of life—some solemn, poignant, or introspective, others joyful, beguiling, or confrontational.
Curated by Didi Menendez, publisher of PoetsArtists, Formation will showcase a distinct selection of figure paintings, ranging from stirring portraits to thought-provoking life studies. There are no prescriptive formulas for what makes a figure painting successful—it is an elusive, intangible property that somehow the best artists know how to unite into a powerful expression that draws the viewer in. Menendez has a keen eye for selecting artwork that not only offers creative flair and aesthetic appeal, but also engages the viewer through narrative and symbolic content.
The exhibition will be held at the Bernarducci⸱Meisel⸱Gallery in New York City, one of the world’s top contemporary realism galleries, from January 12th through February 25th, 2017.
Bernarducci is pleased and proud to present Formation as the Bernarducci⸱Meisel⸱Gallery’s premier exhibition for 2017. He says, “2016 has been a tumultuous year around the world, politically as well as artistically. In the art world, our focus remains true to realism and figurative painting. We are very proud of our First Look program, through which we give our collectors an opportunity to survey compelling young and new painters alongside contemporary masters and classic Photorealists.”
According to Bernarducci, “These twelve painters, emboldened by re-examined history in all aspects of our life—social and political—bring new voices and points of view to contemporary realism that deserves this greater platform that will propel them to the next level. We anticipate that Formation and other shows like it will be seen as an incubator where painters can learn from each other as well as self-reflect. It is our hope that the artists on view in Formation will benefit from First Look as many of our painters have done before them.” Bernarducci is confident that viewers will be impressed once they’ve had an opportunity to evaluate these talented painters for themselves.
Menendez adds, “What Bernarducci⸱Meisel is offering by having a show with only female artists while not focusing on gender is unprecedented and shows a strong leadership in a progressive trend in the New York arts arena. Hopefully it will spread and we will see more shows like this.”
I agree with Menendez wholeheartedly. Despite great leaps towards equality, for me, as an artist, feminist, and humanist, the debate for or against positive discrimination is a contentious one. In my mind, there’s a fine line between promoting equality through affirmative action and the counterproductivity of devaluing accomplishments based on gender, ethnicity, or social group. By purposely avoiding presenting the show pointing to gender only, Formation focuses on artistic contents rather than an act of affirmative action, yet sends a clear and powerful message—just as an all-male-artists’ exhibition never gets promoted that way either. Bravo!
Morgan lends a fresh interpretation to traditional portrayal of the human figure by using striking color schemes and inventive surface treatments. Break of Dawn is a portrait of Adrienne, a friend and a fount of inspiration and encouragement to the artist. Morgan not only captures her strength and determination in a loving, delicate manner, but also allegorically depicts the longed-for transition between life’s hardships and easier, placid times—skillfully represented in a color palette associated with the changing sky during the transition between twilight and the golden hour. The cool darks flowing into warm lights suggest a symbolic movement from the unknown to known. Morgan states, “The essence of this work is about holding on through the difficulty of darkness to be greeted by the relief of dawn.”
Maier’s painting 4 Mothers, We Shall Not Be Moved is a homage to courageous women everywhere protesting injustice. This piece explicitly refers to the protest rallies against police brutality following the death of Anthony Baez, who was killed by the chokehold of a police officer after his football hit a police car. Maier recounts what Iris Baez told her upon leaving her studio one day, when she turned and said, “There is a reason we do this… It is too late for me, my child, but I want to prevent the suffering of other mothers. No one should go through this.” Maier believes this shows how strong, heroic, and compassionate these women are, and painted this piece as a tribute.
Elbers paints the human figure in loose, painterly brushstrokes, always leaving the background vaguely nebulous in order to avoid distraction and maintain the focus on her subject. She uses extravagant embellishments related to Mardi Gras and the cultural heritage of the Bayou region—such as furs, sequins, and feathers—to accentuate physical beauty. Elbers states, “When creating Pile It On I was thinking about the many layers that not only protect and transform a person but can also weigh them down.” While the costume depicted isn’t necessarily heavy in actual weight, the curve of the girl’s upper body and her facial expression give an impression of discomfort and difficulty, symbolically expressing the interesting premise of how the external paraphernalia we own and wear often burden us, instead of enhancing our lives.
Selbach paints the female figure in celebration of the heroic spirit in all women. Through her art, she examines the complexities that ultimately contribute to who we are and how we behave. The Slip, according to Selbach, is “a glimpse of a woman brewing in echoes of generations of young girls and women being told to cover up.” She asks, “When will we stop telling our daughters to put something on/don’t walk around like that/you can’t go out like that/that’s indecent...?” Clothing can be heavy with meaning, often linked to our sociocultural heritage, purposely used to send a false message or to enhance the truth. With this piece Selbach opens up questions regarding the perfection of the human body and probes compulsory norms which force us to hide behind veils of clothing.
I invite you to come see this superb collection of figure paintings, to enjoy the uniquely diverse array of substance and expression of the human face and body, and allow them to stir your thoughts and senses.
Written by Lorena Kloosterboer © Antwerp, January 2017