USM Art Galleries Gorham and Portland
Contemporary Responses to Modernism: A New England Perspective
USM Art Gallery, Gorham
Oct 10-Dec 8, 2019. Closed November 27-31.
Opening Reception: Thursday, Oct 10, 5-7 pm with gallery talk by Visiting Curator Joanna Fink at 6 pm.
The modernist movements of the first half of the 20th century radicalized Western art and continue to provide reference points for artists working today. Whether embracing the concepts of such movements as Cubism or Expressionism (for example), paying homage to specific masters, or challenging notions of who owns the canon, the artists in this exhibition engage with the past in their own contemporary language. While Modernism’s influence is widespread, the focus here is on artists based in New England, with several having ties to Maine.
Ben Aronson’s city scenes synthesize abstraction and representation, joining the lessons of Impressionism with contemporary urban grit. Like Aronson, David Kapp utilizes the urban environment as a platform for his semi-abstract images. Kapp reflects modernism’s embrace of industrial society, capturing the rhythm and randomness of everyday life. Interpreting the language of Cubism, Jim Ritchie’s sculptures echo the faceting and spatial manipulation seen in the work of such artists as Pablo Picasso and Alexander Archipenko. In Portrait 22 after Matisse’s ‘Reclining Odalisque’, Dinorá Justice borrows from the earlier master in order to call into question not only the notion of the male gaze, but the cultural consequences of exoticism.
Martha Armstrong, Bernard Chaet and Jon Imber are all indebted to American Modernism and the interpretations of landscape as forged by such artists as Arthur Dove, John Marin and Marsden Hartley. Whether painting the southwest or the coastline of Maine, these artists echo the spiritualism and experimentation of these earlier practitioners. György Kepes was one of many artists who transplanted European Bauhaus theory to U.S. soil and continued an artistic practice steeped in Bauhaus theory until his death in 2001. In the work of Aaron Fink we see the early influence of Max Beckmann, an artist associated with German Expressionism. Fink’s Smoker is a direct homage to Beckmann’s well-known Self-Portrait in Tuxedo from 1927, re-interpreting the subject as a “noir” everyman.
Sascha Braunig has been described as “an inspired reanimator of Surrealism” by Roberta Smith in The New York Times. Her work Imago is a contemporary take on the concept of irrationality with a distinctly feminine point of view. Equally dreamlike is Susanna Coffey’s Despoina’s Blanche, which transforms a self-portrait into a seemingly symbolist evocation of mythology and mystery.
Many modernist movements contain an element of self-reference – making art about the making of art. Gideon Bok’s work, with images of his own studio, seen from the artist’s point of view, exemplifies this tendency. Ann Weber’s biomorphic sculptures conjure associations with modernists who used abstraction to suggest a new interpretation of the natural world. Little Isamu, Yellow makes a clear reference to Isamu Noguchi, a modernist master of biomorphism. Kayla Mohammadi creates abstract paintings evoking Primitivism and Fauvism, among other modernist movements. She has stated that “I want to have a conversation with Matisse through my own painting. I have found it to be a worthwhile venture, and I still continue with this conversation today.”
This statement exemplifies something that all the artists in this show share: a dialogue with those who have come before, whose innovations and experimentations have created new ideas of the possible.
–Exhibition Curator Joanna Fink, Director of the Alpha Gallery, Boston
The USM Visiting Artist Series is sponsored in part by the Warren Memorial Foundation, continuing their multiple generous gifts to support the arts at USM for the 2019 - 2020 season.
Participating artists: Martha Armstrong, Ben Aronson, Gideon Bok, Sascha Braunig, Bernard Chaet, Susanna Coffey, Aaron Fink, Jon Imber, Dinorá Justice, David Kapp, György Kepes, Kayla Mohammadi, Jim Ritchie, and Ann Weber.
Admission free. Gallery hours: Wed & Thurs, noon-6 pm. Fri-Sun, noon-4 pm. For more info, contact Director of Exhibitions and Programs Carolyn Eyler: 207.780.5008 or email@example.com.Start Slideshow