ARC Select: The Modern Muse
The Modern Muse
by David Molesky
This past Friday night, Rehs Contemporary opened an exhibition of six artists handpicked from this year's Art Renewal Center Salon finalists: Linda Adair (Canadian, b.1980), Hiroshi Furuyoshi (Japanese, b.1959), Randalf Dilla (Filipino, b.1986), Amanda Greive (American, b.1978), David Bowers (American, b.1956), and Michael Van Zeyl (American, b.1969).
When I arrived, there were already several red dots; some of the works had been snatched up by loyal patrons who were given a VIP online preview. The gallery owner, Howard Rehs, was excited about the show’s potential influence, pointing out the uncanny similarity between a current auction house photo-advertisement and Amanda Greive's painting Muscle Memory, which depicts a female sitter who obscures her face with a tight bouquet. Fred Ross, who founded ARC, had early access to the exhibition list and bought Randalf Dilla’s Tempest—featuring his wife in a museum facing a strong wind with birds and debris—and Linda Adair’s Verity—where the cream color palette and the buttery paint handling are just as alluring as the subject matter, if not more so. When Fred arrived at the opening with his family, he first saw the exceptional qualities of these works and quickly purchased another from each, Linda Adair’s Performance—two Victorian masked women holding antique pistols ready for a duel—and then Randalf Dilla’s Eruption—with a trio of female figures erupting through the wooden floor of a museum.
While Howard and Fred looked over the tiny painting by Hiroshi Furuyoshi called ELLA, Fred mentioned that he wished he had snatched it up first. When Hiroshi first exhibited in the United States his painting Morgan received an honorable mention at the 8th Annual ARC Salon. This painting later ended up at a Bonhams auction where it was estimated at $3-5K. The price reached $56K. Since then, Hiroshi’s work most often enters the US market through auctions, where another piece recently went for more than $100K. Lance Rehs, Howard’s son and director of Rehs Contemporary, mentioned it was a challenge to get even one of Hiroshi’s paintings for the exhibition. And it makes sense. The paintings are so meticulously crafted, the floating paint layers in the miniature composition represent the same excellence of brushmanship usually seen only at larger scales. As they continued to study Hiroshi’s work, Howard pointed out the similarities to Bouguereau, whose catalogue raisonné was co-authored by Fred. These two men have bought and sold paintings from one another since the 1980s.
The story of Rehs Galleries begins when the great-grandfather who, while working as an accountant in Manhattan, got a tip that investing in European painting was a good racket to get into. Soon enough, he began importing huge crates of European paintings, mostly 19th-century Victorian works from England. These crates were resold wholesale and unopened to local department stores like Macy’s which then sold the individual works in the art sections. The business carried along like this for some years until the great-grandmother had the idea to open up the crates and sell the paintings directly to clients. They then opened a gallery at a storefront on Park Avenue. Through businesses like Rehs Galleries, there are now, according to Alyssa Rehs, more European paintings in America than there are in Europe.
Now the fourth generation of the Rehs family, Lance and Alyssa are stepping in to help run the business. Both Howard and daughter Alyssa kept in line with the family tradition and studied art history. Lance, on the other hand, despite being surrounded by such excellent paintings, decided to pursue finance instead. After graduating he worked a few years in his chosen field, but eventually gave in to his genetics and entered a life of art. This, however, was probably written in the stars since the entire business originally began when an accountant was lured to join the Art Side. When Lance came on board, he pushed the idea of offering a regular program of living masters to their clientele.
The Rehs and Ross family are leading experts in 19th-Century Art and have grown to appreciate and support the living masters who emulate the technical skill and lyricism of that era. It was only natural that these two art families should team up collaboratively to create an exhibition. From a list of over a thousand ARC finalists, Lance selected half a dozen artists whose work he could unite under the exhibition theme—The Modern Muse.
Probably the most interesting muse story in the show was a painting by Linda Adair named after a curious 17th-century opera singer: La Maupin. As the daughter of an Admiral, Julie D’Aubigny (birth name), was dressed as a boy so that she could learn how to fight with a sword. Later in life, she would often find herself in disputes which she sought to resolve by duel. Linda’s stories of how she gathered image references for the series are equally colorful—from her riding public transport with a backpack filled with guns to interactions with her modern day La Maupin models.
With sales of 3 Lindas, 2 Randalfs, and 1 Hiroshi, the exhibition is off to a good start. Lance explained that these sales basically cover the expenses of a rent and advertising and that the exhibition for the gallery is much more about establishing new relationships with the selected artists. Lance said he will most likely hold on to work by Linda and Randalf to take to future art fairs, and that the success of the sale with the Japanese artist has landed the gallery with three promised paintings over the next year.
ARC Select: The Modern Muse
OCTOBER 27 - NOVEMBER 16, 2018
Rehs Contemporary Galleries, Inc.
5 East 57th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022
David Molesky is an internationally recognized fine artist based in New York City known for his landscapes and figurative works. David has a self-proclaimed preoccupation with the magic of painting; the way a gooey substance is transformed to an illusionary image that arouses states of contemplation and empathy. His representational paintings of humans and environments are in the permanent collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art among other museum collections on both coasts and in Europe and Asia. He is the recipient of artist residencies through the Morris Graves Foundation, California; Fine Art Base, California; and the Fundacja Nakielska, Poland. Many publications have featured Molesky and his paintings including; LA Times,The Washington Post, New American Painting, Hi-Fructose, and Juxtapoz.