• Elizabeth MCClafferty

The Contemporary Figure

“If photography is allowed to supplement art in some of its functions, it will soon have supplanted or corrupted it altogether.” - Charles Baudelaire, “The Salon of 1859”

Stanek Gallery recently held its first ever exhibition of photography. Undoubtedly recognized as a form of fine art in contemporary society, this was not always the case for photography; in fact, the history of photography is really a story of the medium’s struggle for legitimacy as an art form. As demonstrated by the quote by french poet Charles Baudelaire, in photography’s early days, it was seen as a threat to true art (or, in other words, painting).

Indeed, the advent of photography markedly changed the landscape for fine artists, creating an impetus for innovations and stylistic development in the realm of painting. This can be seen in the movement towards the abstract in much of the modern era.

However, in contrast to the pessimistic prediction of the death of painting by Baudelaire, contemporary artists are returning to the roots of representational art, finding new modes of expression through the merging of the figure and abstraction.

“The Contemporary Figure,” currently on view at Stanek Gallery (through June 30th), is a prime example of the expert rendering of the figure in a highly contemporary context. Featuring, painting, works on paper, sculpture, and photography, this exhibition presents works by a group of artists with incredible depth. Not only do they depict the figure with talent and skill in their respective mediums, but these artists ask us to investigate our notions of identity, emotion, and personal struggle. As noted by gallery owner and director Katherine Stanek, the works in this show “remind us to stop, investigate, and marvel at the discovery of what we are capable of.”

Stanka Kordic’s poignant oil paintings seem to evoke memory, mystery, and emotion. Kordic renders the figure in highly atmospheric environments--her subjects seem to disappear and reappear, and possess a childlike innocence. Her works confront the notions of past and present, and the merging of the two, creating beautiful, sensitive, and sometimes surreal compositions.

The works of Paul Cava also contemplate the time and history. Combining photography, print, painting, and collage, these mixed media works are both theatrical and poetic. Cava explores the realms of human emotion and sexuality through his rendering of the figure, often transposing the traditions of the past and the present, pushing the viewer beyond

their comfort zone.

Again challenging our conception of the contemporary figure, are the works of Nancy Hellebrand. Hellebrand’s three-dimensional, sculptural approach to the two-dimensional medium of photography requires an in-depth contemplation of this incredible body of work, which challenges our conception of age and beauty in the contemporary figure.

Sculptor Gary Weisman’s works are a striking presentation of human form, gesture, and emotion. Showcasing the artist’s mastery of the figure, Weisman’s bronze sculptures grapple with the notions of loss and struggle. They represent the process of healing and coping through the formal elements of suspension and balance.

The figurative paintings of Leona Shanks each convey the subtleties of human thought. Shanks imbues her figures with a certain confidence and attitude, rendering them with a richness of color and tone. Each of the works seems to capture an uninhibited moment of deep thought.

Stephen Early’s sensitive rendering of the human form pulls the viewer in to his often complicated compositions. The subtle, masterfully detailed oil paintings possess a beauty and simplicity that allude to great depth of emotional and cerebral content.

Painter Kerry Dunn’s works similarly present a masterful rendering of the beauty of the figure. Dunn confronts issues of identity and inequality through his exploration of the human form, which is often suspended in beautiful, bright abstracted spaces in his paintings.

The subtle, mysterious works of Tamie Beldue again consider these concepts of identity through the contemporary figure. Employing a unique medium, these works effectively draw the viewer into their incredible depth, both of form and content.

Valerio D’Ospina’s dynamic and engaging works demonstrate his foundation in the figure. Employing the same energy in these works as he does in his cityscapes, D’Ospina explores the coexistence of the human, organic, and manufactured worlds across his body of work.

Last but not least, Katherine Stanek’s sculptures deal with the notions of conformity versus nonconformity through balance and form. Her works consider the converging of the personal and public spheres, and the status of the individual in contemporary society.

You don’t want to miss the opportunity to view the incredible works of this show, all of which possess an “depth that allows us to connect with one another on a level that we tend to neglect these days.”The Contemporary Figure is on view now through Saturday, June 30th 2018 at Stanek Gallery.

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