Saturday, September 17, 2011

Realism and the Body Beautiful

A Deal With The First Devil You Came Across (2011) by Jeff Ramirez

Last December, Thinkspace gallery exhibited a show called "The New Realism" which displayed a group of six artists including Aaron Nagel, Jeff Ramirez, and Jennifer Nehrbass. Well, they have a current show going on which again features these three artists. And, if you missed the December show, you have another opportunity to admire the fine figural realism of these artists.

I've written about Jeff Ramirez's work before at a show last May. His paintings still contain a powerful mix of highly detailed realism blended with obscurity or inscrutability of significance. With figures hidden under trashcans or brightly colored clothes, the paintings are visual enigmas. The painting above is not as overtly indeterminate, but it still uses cropped, foreshortened, and obscured compositional elements to create a mystery in regards to its premise.

Aaron Nagel's work approaches the mysterious in a different manner. His paintings of realistic female nudes evokes the transcendent quality of religious iconography. Upon a shadowed background, the women shine with supernal radiance, like carnal saints of mortal Beauty. Nagel's figures are exemplars of that which contemporary society worships.

Sincerely II (2011) by Aaron Nagel

My original training in the Arts was focused on religious iconography. So, Nagel's work really resonates with me. If "deus mortuus est" then what is the purpose of the "ora pro nobis"?

Given the amazing beauty of Nagel's work, I feel as if he is sometimes positing the beauty of the flesh as an appropriate replacement for the lost presence of the Divine. On the other hand, paintings like the one below hint at the insufficiency of mortal glory. It will "flush" away like running paints.

Flush (2011) by Aaron Nagel

Here's a vid of a show in which Aaron Nagel's work was exhibited last year. Good stuff!!!

Finally, Jennifer Nehrbass is the most abstract of these three painters. She still delivers on highly realistic figures, but immerses them within or as part of an expressive nonrealistic context. The work below is a good example of her technique of merged realism and abstraction.

On the Banks of the Rhine (2011) by Jennifer Nehrbass

Although the figure is depicted with meticulous realism, she is placed within an abstract setting. The tension between these two extremes makes the viewer uncertain as to what the painting signifies. It's an engaging compositional technique.

In any case, this is a very good show. I definitely recommend checking it out for yourself.

Works by Aaron Nagel, Jeff Ramirez, and Jennifer Nehrbass showing at Thinkspace ends October 1st.


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