Elegant figures in repose, lush fabrics and ornate flora — these hallmarks of 17th-century academic painting can be seen in the work of Mary Jane Ansell, Sam Wolfe Connelly and Stephen Mackey, all of whom paint deftly with a distinct sense of style. Grouped together for the exhibition “Contemporary Romanticism,” which opens at Arcadia Contemporary in NYC on April 24, these artists use the light, airy style of the original Romantic painters to apprehend contemporary themes and surreal scenarios. Sam Wolfe Connelly’s work is decidedly the darkest of the three artists. His drawings and paintings (his oil paintings will be exhibited for the first time in this show) weave a narrative of haunted, backwoods estates where specters creep in the forest and make shadowy appearances in the desolate, countryside houses.
Talk about good timing. “Energy That Is All Around: Mission School,” curated by Natasha Boas for NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, features the work of artists that became known as the Mission School. The artists include three San Francisco Art Institute alumni, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, and Ruby Neri, and their friends Chris Johanson and Margaret Kilgallen. The name describes where they lived and worked. In the early ’90s, San Francisco’s bohemian Mission District offered, among other things, low rent. Try finding that now. They based their work on graffiti, signage, folk art and cartoons. It was political, if not radical. As inspirations, they cited Bay Area Figuration, the Beat movement and Funk. Each artist had a graffiti tag, including Twist and Reminisce. They worked in all media.
The female busts in Jess Riva Cooper’s “Viral Series” recall sculpture from Classical antiquity. The glazed white ceramic is cold and smooth like marble, and the features are perfectly contoured like the depictions of Greek or Roman goddesses. Cooper, however, twists the ideal into a new archetype of beauty. On faces that might otherwise seem lifeless, the Toronto-based artist has painted overgrown flora. Life in the form of ivy, flowers, and insects literally creep out of their noses and ears.
Now on view at Mark Moore Gallery’s project room is “Hunting Trophies” by Jeremy Fish, marking his first solo exhibition there. (We previously covered Fish’s work at Mark Moore gallery here.) Fish injects a high dose of color to the space where he appears next to Christopher Russell’s monochromatic prints, “GRFALWKV”. Walking into the exhibit is like stepping inside Fish’s own trophy room, stacked with cartoon animal ‘kills’ in his highly saturated, illustrative style. Hi-Fructose caught up with Fish to talk about his new work.
Have you ever wondered who paints the pictures used in movies? For his recent film The Grand Budapest Hotel, director Wes Anderson commissioned contemporary British figurative painter Michael Taylor to paint a fictional Renaissance portrait titled Boy with Apple. The film’s plot builds from the artwork, which features a stately, pre-pubescent boy in sumptuous fabrics, holding a plump, if not slightly bruised green apple. The charming intrigue of the subject is underscored by a slightly hesitant darkness in the boy’s expression and the less than perfect condition of the fruit of sin. This thematic element makes the subject present and vigilant, inciting anxiety and curiosity within the viewer. In many ways, this is Taylor’s signature.
Looking at Jeff Bark’s latest photo series “Goldenboy,” one can imagine oneself starting to sweat. The sun overcomes Bark’s sultry, summery scenes almost oppressively: Everything in the photos is drenched with a thick, yellow glow. Things begin to perspire, melt and crumble in the searing heat. The sun-kissed, scantily-clad male protagonist drifts off to sleep like the blissfully-hypnotized Lotus Eaters in Homer’s Odyssey. Bark’s photos are so stylized they register as paintings at a first glance. Rather than striving for a depiction of reality, he captures his own fantasy, weaving a vignette throughout his body of work through carefully-chosen close-ups that add depth to a narrative without words. It’s interesting to note that all of the photos were taken in and around the artist’s garage. Indeed, there is a sense of an otherworldly microcosm in this small space. Bark’s “Goldenboy” opens at Hasted Kraeutler in New York City on April 24 and will be on view through June 14.