I pity the fool, Sean Cheetham, 2012
Past Presence: Contemporary Figure and Portrait Exhibition
Look at the modern art movements as a whole and view the direct lineage from one to the next throughout Art History from 1850 to the late 1960’s, and in doing this there is one prevailing factor throughout. That factor is the growth of the individual artist’s ideas and concepts over their mere reproductions of prior established “norms” in Art. As we progressed from the beginnings of Modern Art in the Realism movement of the mid-19th century to the Post-Minimalist movement over a hundred years later we see the artist’s idea far outweigh his representational skill. With this creation of idea and concept trumping technical skill what happened was Artists began to invent, and in their inventions they would create movements; for example, Picasso and Braque and their inventions of Analytical and Synthetic Cubism in the early days of Modern Art between 1910-1914. What would happen shortly after is that the repetition would begin as Artists who were trained to mimic began to follow the movements of individual invention and when this mimicry had reached epic proportions of repetition it called for a new movement in Art. So what we saw is “repetition” or “sameness” became public enemy number one in Modern Art as Modern Artists constantly sought to re-invent and individualize their message and technical approach. Always searching for what was new and what would make an impact.
This seems to have come to a head in the mid-1950’s with the Pop Art movement, spear-headed by Andy Warhol. Warhol added this idea of repetition into his art in order to sarcastically ridicule the established idea of repetition and its connotation of the latest Art Movement. In the Marilyn Diptych Warhol is exposing the ugliness of the “copy” and he is demonstrating its loss of newness as the image is repeated and ink changes or smears and diminishes the subject further with each copy. He is ridiculing the mass appeal to take something beautiful; such as Marilyn, and to expose it and copy it in repetition until it loses its beauty and rare newness, which is what made us love “the object of our desire” in the first place.
The artists involved in this exhibition are part of a quiet revolution just as Manet and Courbet were when they invented the Realism movement in the mid 19th Century or Monet, Cassatt, and the Impressionists were a quarter century later. This revolt against the established norms in Art is happening once again and these artists are among the forefront of this exciting movement. This exhibition includes a group of artists who have used the Figure and Portrait in their work as a springboard to unleash their ideas and visual communication onto their audience. These were Artists who sought to train themselves academically with the figure when such things were viewed as passé and outdated. They had to fight the established “norms” of non-representational art and educate themselves in a world of art, which offered very little technical training. In doing so they have played their part in inventing a new movement in art just as their predecessors always have. This Contemporary Figurative Art movement honors and acknowledges the past but doesn’t simply derive from the past its questions and answers. It asks new questions and challenges the viewer in new ways to answer them.
Throughout Art History the Figure has been the basis for art as we created our world in our own image, but the need for the artists idea to become paramount in art brought us away from representing the figure and toward non-objective Art movements which were essential in bringing us out of the academia which had gained a stronghold on artistic expression. There is no arguing the necessity of Cubism, Fauvism, Abstract expressionism and Post Minimalism among many other modern art movements. Each brought new developments to the artist’s visual communication and its overwhelming importance to artistic expression. But the past forty years have brought about somewhat of a standstill in contemporary art as the “copying” of these movements has become stale and stagnant. The nature of Modern Art is ideas born out of new ideas that challenge the old ideas. If this nature of questioning the establishment as we seek newness and individuality in Art is allowed to continue by the public and the “Art Establishment” then Contemporary Figurative Art has a future. For Art to evolve and to grow we must always seek to destroy repetition and fight our nature to mimic success in art around us. The artists of this exhibition are showing with their work that they value both the representation of life and their concept equally as they show us new ways to visually communicate while using Art History’s oldest tool––The Human Figure.
Thank you to all of the Artists who showed in this exhibit. It really was a great experience for me and this show was done in your honor.
Kent Twitchell, Kent Williams, Sean Cheetham, Natalia Fabia, Aaron Westerberg, Sergio Sanchez, Virginia Broersma, Joseph Todorovitch, Eric Pedersen, Suzanne Unrein, Richard Morris, "The McCaw's" Dan, John, and Danny, Rogelio Manzo, Seamus Conley, Peter Zhang, Rebecca Campbell, DJ Hall, Chris Gwaltney, Marc Trujillo, and F. Scott Hess