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Formation

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Date: 
Thursday, 12 January 2017 to Saturday, 25 February 2017
Opening: 
Thursday, 12 January 2017 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm

New York City, NY — Bernarducci.Meisel.Gallery is pleased to the announce Formation, a painting survey presented in conjunction with a special issue of Poets & Artists 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, Victoria Selbach.

for·ma·tion

noun

1. the action of forming or process of being formed.

synonyms: emergence, coming into being, genesis, development, evolution, shaping, origination.

2. a structure or arrangement of something.

Formation, in other words, strongly relates to the principles of conception, the creative process, the birth of—in this case—something quite sublime.

Formation is also a 2016 song by Beyoncé. She sings, I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it… I imagine all the poets and artists participating in this exhibition and its accompanying PoetsArtists issue feel those words to be a truth, a powerful precept to live and work by.

In preparation of writing this introduction, time and again I gaze at the artwork with my eager artist’s eye and recite the poetry aloud with my hungry reader’s voice, always in search for grace in form and in word, searching for a deeper truth that touches or shakes me. This body of work—presented as a collection of paintings and poems—seduces me with its beauty and substance. Allow it to stir you too.

The human figure is one of the most enduring themes in the visual arts. It draws our eyes, firing up our sensory cortex in an evolutionary response of reading facial expression and body language. When representational artwork retains strong reference to the real world its impact is at its highest.

Formal elements and aesthetic properties—such as color and values, line and form, shape and texture, scale and perspective—play an important role in these paintings. Besides establishing the illusion of dimensionality, there’s an emphasis on a narrative that attracts and retains the viewer beyond a first glance. 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 makes us stop and gaze. This collection of paintings offers exactly that.

Alas, today’s technological world of internet and social media relentlessly bombards us with an astonishing amount and variety of visuals, so the challenge of the figure painter to create an impactful and eye-catching image has increased on many levels—far beyond the extent that any pre-digital revolution artist ever faced.

The breathless pace of current technology normalizes our strongly reduced attention span, with dire consequences for contemporary realism—the non-instant artwork that takes time, skill, and effort. Combining the results of a number of studies on how long viewers look at paintings I found that, on average, a viewer looks at a painting between two and 32 ½ seconds. According to the Louvre, visitors typically look at Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa an average of fifteen seconds. Wait… what?

The true lover of art looks at art for a sensory and emotional experience. The art expert focuses on the conceptual nature of an artwork as an expression of an idea. And the artist looks for all of the above as well as the technical facets of conception. We all seem to gravitate towards artwork that drives the entire psyche. Hopefully you find yourself among these three categories. Deserving more than a quick glance I want—no, urge—you to savor these wonderful paintings in a conscious and deliberate manner and really connect with them.

 

While not every artwork will attract us, those that do often generate sensations that we should honor and question, not only to enjoy that experience but also to know ourselves better. When art captivates us there’s an opportunity for awareness on both a tangible and metaphysical level. Besides, it can become much more than just a private personal encounter; we can share our reactions with others creating a social experience by initiating a connection through art.

 

The paintings participating in Formation are curated by Didi Menendez, publisher of Poets and Artists, and are shown in New York City at one of the world’s most prestigious art galleries championing contemporary realism.

 

Frank Bernarducci, Director and Partner at Bernarducci Meisel Gallery explains the premise of this exhibition, saying, “Formation is a group survey of young figurative painters. What do they have in common? They’re all women. There, I said it.”

 

With a glint in his eye he continues, “Formation will be part of our First Look program that showcases the work of compelling new artists whose work we believe warrants exposure. This will be the first time any of these painters have exhibited at our Gallery on 57th Street and we are looking forward to hosting the exhibition.”

From inspiring portraits to passionate life studies, each of these artist offers their own distinctive style of capturing the human figure. Each piece strikes me as a poetic narrative describing tangible and intangible aspects of life—some serious, introspective, or heartrending, others joyful, contemplative, or seductive. Generous are these artists who bravely expose their souls so that our eyes and minds may feast upon their toil. I invite you to spend some quality time with this superb anthology of poems and paintings.

Erin Anderson paints the human figure using oil on copper sheet. In her body of work, she explores the dynamics of interpersonal relationships as well as the fundamental connections between humans and the environment. The interplay between paint and metal substrate allow her to portray different levels of reality, revealing dynamic and changing layers that can either be perceived directly or sensed instinctively. Her figures are anchored in a classical representational approach, exquisitely rendered in a detailed yet subtle manner.

Erica Elan Ciganek’s portraits depict close-ups of cropped faces, focused on truly seeing the individual beyond the veils of societal biases and preconceptions—beyond the identification of skin color or socioeconomic status that exist as structures to suppress, devaluate, and dehumanize others. Rivulets of water serve a dual symbolism, in that the water represents the filter that skews our views that divide us, while also uniting us in our common human experience. Ciganek’s work seeks to challenge society’s rampant dehumanization—in particular regarding black people—by inviting the viewer to see beyond power structures and respond with a deeper, more visceral understanding that celebrates life and embraces the pleasures of discovery.

 

Michelle Doll’s paintings center on the human figure in touchingly intimate poses that speak of those silent, fleeting moments of physical interconnection between people. She portrays the significance of emotional energy—either present or desired—which she captures in a delicate realism infused with easy sensuality. Doll examines the profound significance of the power of love, our desire for touch, and the fragility of unity. Doll’s subjects are real people portrayed from an introspective viewpoint. To avoid influencing the viewer with a title, Doll catalogues her work with the initials of her models so we may experience the artwork from a purely personal perspective.

Heidi Elbers paints the human figure in loose, painterly brush strokes, always leaving the background white and vaguely nebulous in order to avoid distraction and maintain the focus on her subject. Her fascination with extravagant costumes started early in life. Embellishments related to Mardi Gras and the cultural history of the Bayou region—such as furs, sequins, and feathers—are used to accentuate physical beauty. Her latest body of work examines the balance between beauty and masculinity. Typical male activities—such as that of hunter, trapper, or soldier—form part of the narrative, often playfully juxtaposed against archetypal feminine traits.

Shana Levenson paints contemporary portraits in a classical approach, in a quest to go beyond realism to capture the personal truth and genuine essence of the subject. She seeks a deeper connection with the people she paints, sharing their personal stories and experiences with sensitivity and respect.

Sylvia Maier paints American narratives in broad, supple brush strokes, inspired by Rembrandt’s raw mystery and the passion of the Renaissance. Influenced by her biracial heritage she examines current cultural differences within familiar social settings in public places. Maier approaches each piece by sketching an impromptu scene that catches her eye, after which she recreates the tableau with models in order to gain deeper artistic insight and work out the subject matter. She aims to capture a multicultural figurative world, where art, music, ceremony, and tolerance reign.

Jenny Morgan paints the human figure breaking away from classical approaches by using striking color schemes and inventive surface treatments that give a fresh interpretation to traditional portraiture. Her method involves the annihilation of impeccably painted portraits, sanding them down to strip away layers in order to symbolically reveal physical and spiritual wounds of the flesh. In her work, Morgan seeks to examine the complexities of human relationships and to expose the psychological multiplicities of the ego. Morgan’s innovative color-use, interesting compositions, and partially abstracted content superbly come together in a highly-sophisticated body of work.

Sarah Muirhead’s art has its roots in portraiture and medical illustration, clearly visible in the way she conveys the physical embodiment of the human spirit. Muirhead focuses on characteristics such as pleasure and pain, expressing them in a visceral, anatomical, and critical manner. At close view, splendid details of patterns, pulsating with life, convey close examination of her subject matter, with an emphasis on the quality of flesh, skin textures, and muscle density. Her impressive body of work not only examines the physicality of human anatomy but also provokes questions about self-expression, identity, and gender.

Omalix paints the female figure with an emphasis on a personal narrative through which she explores her emotions and experiences—those which she cannot express in any other way. Her classical, highly skilled approach to textures and details reflects her love for realism. Despite high detail, she aims for visible brush strokes that retain evidence of the presence of her hand. Omalix strongly believes that the act of painting always translates into a form of self-portraiture, whether she paints herself or a model.

Lee Price paints the solitary, isolated female figure from an elevated downward-looking viewpoint that suggests self-reflection—looking at oneself from a psychological perspective. In her work, Price examines our relationship with food and how compulsive behavior is often expressed in secrecy and solitude in unusual settings, such as bathtubs and bedrooms. While her exquisitely detailed work conveys an apparent atmosphere of pleasure, the underlying implications emphatically touch upon our fears—and sometimes our reality—of feeling out-of-control panic, paralyzing guilt and shame, and energy wasted on self-destructive behavior. The strength and perceptiveness of Price’s work is reinforced by a vivid, contemporary color palette and gracefully detailed realism.

Nadine Robbins uses an academic approach grounded in atelier tradition to achieve artwork that honors the historic legacy of portraiture depicting today’s world. She paints ordinary people from all walks of life with distinct emotional clarity. Robbins captures inner beauty in a touching and oft amusing manner that suggests intimacy, tenderness, and an understanding of the human experience, emphasizing the duality between bravado and vulnerability.

Victoria Selbach paints the female figure in celebration of the vitality and strength of the contemporary goddess—the heroic indomitable spirit in all women. Through her art, she seeks to examine individual experiences and shared journeys that connect us in meaningful ways, and how they influence our interactions with the world. Pondering on the complexities that ultimately contribute to who we are and how we behave, Selbach searches for a deeper truth, seeking enlightenment through the act of painting.  

Written by Lorena Kloosterboer © Antwerp, December 2016

For further information and images of works from the exhibition please contact Leah Guadagnoli at (212) 593-3757 or leah@meiselgallery.com

Artist ( Description ): 

A painting survey presented in conjunction with a special issue of Poets & Artists 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, Victoria Selbach

Venue ( Address ): 

Bernarducci Meisel Gallery 

Other events from Bernarducci Meisel Gallery

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Formation
01/12/2017 to 02/25/2017
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BMG First Look Presents Emily Copeland Recent Drawings
03/02/2017 to 04/01/2017
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Ester Curini, Endangered
03/02/2017 to 04/01/2017
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Sharon Moody, Trompe l'oeil Paintings
02/02/2017 to 02/25/2017

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