Deborah Bigeleisen • Yin Yong Chun • Terry DeLapp
Nancy Depew • Sarah Lamb • Richard Murdock
Michael Siegel • Michael Theise • Lynn Veitzer
March 24 – April 16, 2011
Contact: Spanierman Gallery (email@example.com)
Gallery Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30-5:30
Spanierman Gallery, LLC is pleased to announce the opening on March 24, 2011, of Contemporary Still-Life Painting, featuring work by Michael Theise, Yin Yong Chun, Lynn Veitzer, Deborah Bigeleisen, Terry DeLapp, Nancy Depew, Richard Murdock, Michael Siegel, and Sarah Lamb.
In this age of virtual reality, it is intriguing that still-life painting has been among the most resilient of artistic genres. Yet it is perhaps paradoxically the electronic world around us that has intensified the interest in this art form that dates to antiquity, for the portrayal of objects enables artists to consider our connection to physical matter, exploring our relationship to it culturally or individually, its familiarity or strangeness, and the ways that we invest it with meaning. The artists in this exhibition probe such concerns, whether using the vehicle of a particular motif to address shape and texture or taking a conceptual approach.
A conceptual element is present in works by three artists. Lynn Veitzer uses the medium of still life to consider the cyclical nature of the physical world. Portraying dried autumnal leaves, a protected leafy plant within a terrarium, and emptied planters from which a trickle of dirt emanates, in Flourite Sanctum, she conveys the theme of the desire to preserve and suspend life. Born in Liaoning Province, Northern China, Yin Yong Chun combines classical Western techniques with Asian compositional influences. In One Bowl of Black Plums, the plums and their imperfect leaves seem to animate and join a narrative evoked in the design on the Chinese ceramic bowl that holds the fruit and the delicately painted screen in the background. Michael Theise carries on the trompe l’oeil tradition of William Harnett and John Peto in works such as Taking Chances, in which the flatness of a painted monopoly board increases the sense of its seeming reality, while the depiction of varying denominations of paper currency on the board draws a further connection between Theise and his American predecessors.
Trained in the time-honored methods of European academic painting, Sarah Lamb carries on the legacy of Chardin and Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744–1818). In her meticulously rendered Rustica, elements of a simple repast of sliced meat, broken, buttered bread, and bottles of liqueur are dramatically lit against a dark background. Sarah Lamb brings out the shimmering surfaces of these forms, evoking a sense of interior light, while conjuring the venerable vanitas tradition. A similar chiaroscuro fills Michael Siegel's Scherzo, a tabletop still life in which a cask of aged liquor, a squeezed lemon, dried leaves, and gleaming eggs are rhythmically balanced, suggesting, along with the work’s title, a reference to the classical music. The tabletop is also a vehicle for Richard Murdock, denoting the way that this form has traditionally been a means of achieving continuity between our space and that of the image. Yet in Murdock’s Still Life with Magnolias, only a glimmer of light conveys the presence of the table’s surface; the luminosity flows upward, animating three magnolias, each in a different stage of opening. The isolation of the brilliant, highly refined flowers gives this work a poignant undertone, bringing to mind life’s fragility and temporality.
The infinite possibilities in the age-old still-life genre of the floral subject is demonstrated in three additional paintings in the exhibition. An artist for whom this theme is a primary focus, Nancy Depew plays with subtleties of light in Revelation, drawing the viewer’s eye through the calligraphic lines of a plant pulled out at its roots, the movement of the leaves and the budding blossoms suggesting that an interpretation of the work’s title might be that moments of heightened awareness are often quiet rather than dramatic. A contemplative feeling is also present in the work of Terry DeLapp. In Orange Daisies, liquid edges and blurred forms convey a sense of the simultaneous vulnerability and radiance of his subject. In Deborah Bigeleisen’s paintings, such as Dynamism, a single flower is magnified in strong light and extreme detail, exposing the unpredictability and turbulence of this subject, while immortalizing the transitory nature of life.
As these examples reveal, still life, once considered a humble or purely decorative genre, yields a rich variety of aesthetic and thematic considerations that carry direct relevance to modern life, as we contend with a physical world from which we often feel distant.