Victor Brauner

Victor Brauner, “Le Surréaliste”, January 1947, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 45 cm, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

Victor Brauner was a Romania painter and sculptor. He aided in the growth of Surrealist art by developing its vocabulary and drawing inspiration from new sources, including mythology, alchemy, Hinduism, Judaism, and both Aztec and Native American  belief systems. Brauner developed a private and very personal iconography and his pictorial presentations of the etheric body had a direct impact on other Surrealist painters.

Brauner was born in June of 1903 in the city of Piatra Neamț nestled in the Eastern Carpathian mountains, His family lived in Vienna for eleven years until they returned to Romania in 1914. Brauner’s father was involved in spiritualism and, in 1916, sent his son to an evangelical school in the city of Brăila, where Victor developed a strong interest in zoology. In 1921, Brauner briefly attended Bucharest’s National School of Fine Arts. He also studied at the private school of Romania director Horia Igiroşanu. 

After his studies, Victor Brauner visited the Moldavian city of Fălticeni and the coastal Bulgarian resort town of Balchik, where he painted landscapes in the manner of Cézanne. In September of 1924, he had his first solo exhibition of expressionist paintings at the Mozart Galleries in Bucharest. Brauner also participated in a November 1924 exhibition sponsored by the avant-garde art and literary magazine, Contimporanul. 

In 1925 Brauner travelled to Paris for the first time, where he stayed in the same building as Swiss sculptor and printmaker Alberto Giacometti and the French Surrealist painter Yves Tanguy, who introduced him to many of the Surrealists in Paris. Brauner also befriended Romanian sculptor and painter Constantin Brancusi, who taught him the methods of art photography. His circle of friends at that time included poet Benjamin Fondane and artists such as Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Robert and Sonia Duchamp. 

As Fascism began to take hold in 1930, Victor Brauner settled in Paris more permanently and married Margit Kosch, whom he would divorce nine years later. In 1931 he painted one his most famous images, “Self-Portrait with Plucked Eye”, a work that was eerily prophetic, as on August 28th in 1938 Brauner lost his left eye when he was hit by a glass during a violent argument between Spanish Surrealist painters Oscar Domínguez and Esteban Francés. 

Brauner had his first solo exhibition in Paris at the Galerie Pierre in 1934; the enthusiastic catalogue introduction was written by author and poet André Breton. However, the show was not well received and Brauner, disheartened and low on funds, returned  to Bucharest in the following year. During this period in Bucharest, he stopped painting and instead produced illustrations and caricatures, including his 1935 “Anatomy of Desire”. Financially more secure, Brauner moved back to Paris in 1938.

The German army’s advance into France in the middle of 1940 forced Victor Brauner, a Romanian Jew and former Communist, to flee to southern France. He continually moved throughout France, living for a short time with writer Robert Ruis, before finally settling in Saint Feliu d’Amont, a commune in the very southern tip of France. While living there, Brauner unsuccessfully tried to obtain a visa to travel to the United States, however, he managed to get official permission in 1941 to settle in Marseilles, a haven for many Surrealists. In Marseilles, the surrealists continued their work and created a number of collective projects, that included a deck of Tarot cards to which Brauner contributed two images. 

Near the end of the war, Victor Brauner moved to Switzerland to escape the increasing Nazi persecution of foreign Romanian nationals. There he discovered pioneer psychotherapist Marguerite Sèchehaye’s writings on schizophrenia, treatises which influenced his later paintings. In 1945, Brauner returned to Paris and placed his work at the Galerie Maeght for the 1947 International Exhibition of Surrealism. Not long after his return to Paris, Brauner was expelled in 1947 from the Surrealist group by André Breton for refusing to support the ouster of prominent member Roberto Matta. Brauner began to experiment in other genres and completely left Surrealism in 1948. 

Brauner returned to more personal and primitive themes in his work, in a more stylized and abstracted form, done in the mediums of paper, encaustic painting, and thin oils on board. He established a studio in 1959 at 72 Rue Lepic in the Montmartre district of Paris. After a trip to Italy in 1961, Brauner settled in Varengeville, a commune on the sea in Normandy. In the same year, his work was presented in a solo exhibition at New York City’s Bodley Gallery, a prominent art gallery that became the venue of choice for the Pop Art movement. In 1966, Brauner was selected to represent France and given an entire hall at the Venice Biennale for his work. 

After a period of prolonged illness, Victor Brauner died in Paris on March 12th of 1966. He is buried at the Montmartre Cemetery; the epitaph on his tomb reads: “Painting is Life, the Real Life, My Life”.

Note: In ” The Surréaliste”, Victor Brauner borrows motifs from the tarot to create a portrait of himself as a young man. The tarot was a subject of widespread interest to Brauner and other Surrealists. One tarot card, the Juggler (the first card in the Marseille tarot deck), provided Brauner with a key prototype for his self-portrait. The Surrealist’s large hat, medieval costume, and the position of his arms all derive from this figure who, like Brauner’s subject, stands behind a table displaying a knife, a goblet, and coins. In the Waite tarot deck, the first card is the Magician. A sign of infinity (the symbol of life) that appears above the Magician’s head is also depicted on the hat of Brauner’s Surrealist.

Second Insert Image: Victor Brauner, “Le Codex du Poète, Mythologie du Poète, Première Naissance”, 1947, Oil on Canvas, 91.7 x 72.9 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Victor brauner, “Prelude to a Civilization”, 1956, encaustic and Ink on Masonite, 129.5 x 202.6 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fourth Insert Image: Victor Brauner, “La Couronnée”, May 1945, Oil and Wax with Black Ink on Board, 27 x 22 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Victor Brauner, Title Unknown, circa 1945, Encaustic on Board, Private Collection

Luchita Hurtado

The Artwork of Luchita Hurtado

Born in Maiquetia, Venezuela in November of 1920, Luchita Hurtado was a painter whose work, with its strong feminist and environmental themes, crossed many different cultures and art movements. Although her career spanned over eight decades, she only received wide recognition for her art towards the end of her life.

In her early years, Luchita Hurtado lived in New York City with her mother, older sister and aunts. She studied Fine Art at the Art Student League and volunteered at “La Prensa”, the largest and oldest daily Spanish-language newspaper in the United States, where she met her first husband, Chilean journalist Daniel de Solar. In 1938 at the age of eighteen, Hurtado married Daniel de Solar and had two children together. The family relocated to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic after an invitation with a request to start a newspaper arrived from Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic.

Returning to the United States, Hurtado and her family settled back in New York City where they associated with many artists and journalists, among whom were Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo, artist and landscape designer Isamu Noguchi, surrealist artist and collector Wolfgang Paalen, and Japanese-American dancer Ailes Gilmour, who was Noguchi’s half-sister. In 1942, Hurtado divorced de Solar and subsequently married Wolfgang Paalen. Beginning  in 1944, Luchita Hurtado produced window displays and painted murals for Bloomingdale’s, a luxury department store in New York City. She also did freelance work as an illustrator for the mass media company Condé Nast and worked as a muralist for the Lord and Taylor department store in the city. 

In 1946, Luchita Hurtado and husband Wolfgang Paalen traveled to Mexico to research pre-Columbian art. A research article by Paaalen, with photographs taken by Hurtado, was published in the 1952 edition of the French literary and artistic journal “Cahiers d’Art”. After her divorce from Wolfgang Paalen, Hurtado moved to Los Angeles in 1951 with fellow painter Lee Mullican, whom she married in the late 1950s. Lee Mullican would remain with her until his death in 1998.

In 1970, Hurtado founded the feminist group, Los Angeles Council of Women Artists. She participated in their first exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art, “Invisible/Visible”, which was organized by multi-media artist Judy Chicago and sculptress Dextra Frankel. In 1974, Hurtado had a solo exhibition at the Woman’s Building, a non-profit arts and education center which focused the women’s movement and feminist art.

Except for her two exhibitions and work produced for Bloomingdale’s and Conde Nast, Luchita Hurtado’s artwork was largely unknown until 2015. Ryan Good, who was cataloguing the estate of Hurtado’s deceased husband Lee Mullican, found paintings signed “LH” among others in the collection. He showed these paintings to Paul Soto, founder of Los Angeles’s Park View Gallery, who gave Hurtado her second ever solo exhibition, “Luchita Hurtado: Selected Works, 1942-1952”, a two-month show which opened in November of 2016. Hurtado was ninety-six years old at the opening of the show.

With the recognition generated by the solo exhibition, Luchita Hurtado’s career erupted. Her work was included in the Hammer Museum’s 2018  “Made in L. A.” exhibition and received a good review from the L.A. Times and favorable critical reception. Hurtado’s paintings caught the attention of Hans Ulrich Obrich, a Swiss art curator and the artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries, two prestigious galleries located in central London. He gave Hurtado her first international solo exhibition entitled “Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn”. 

Luchita Hurtado’s work contain elements from the avant-garde and modernist movements of the twentieth-century, including magical realism, abstraction, and surrealism. She used womb imagery in her works long before it appeared in the feminist art movement of the late 1970s. One of Hurtado’s  best known series of works is the “I Am” images of the 1960s, self-portraits painted by her looking down at her own body. Taking up the issue of climate change, Hurtado painted more specific environmental themes, some of which contained block-lettered texts such as “Mother Earth” and “We Are Just a Species”. 

Hurtado’s artwork depicting nude women contain loosely surrealistic forms that draw inspiration from pre-Columbian art, cave paintings, and abstraction in sculpture and paintings. Through her work, she focused attention on the edges of the body and the language used to bridge the gap between ourselves and others. Hurtado expressed this connection through images that coupled the intimate gestures of the body with the vastness of the sky and earth. 

In February of 2020, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art held a retrospective of Luchita Hurtado’s work. She remained active in the arts until her death, at the age of ninety-nine, in August of 2020. Hurtado was named as one of ‘Time” magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2019. Her work is in many private collections and public collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. 

Note: An interesting article on the life of Luchita Hurtado, which includes early photographs and video of Hurtado discussing her life , can be found at the Whipple Russell Architects site located at: https://whipplerussell.com/blog/critically-acclaimed-in-her-90s-modernist-luchita-hurtado

Second Inser Image: Luchita Hurtado, “Birth”, 2019, Acrylic on Linen, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Luchita Hurtado, “Encounter”, 1971, Detail, Oil on Canvas, 12 x 243 cm, Hauser and Wirth Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Oresti Tsonopoulos, “Luchita Hurtado”,  2018

Jacques Azéma

Paintings by Jacques Azéma

Born in 1910, Jacques Azéma was a French artist who made Marrakech his home in 1930. At the age of twenty, he had traveled throughout North Africa, until he finally settled in Morocco, his home for the next fifty years.

Azéma’s work grew from his fascination with Morocco’s geometric patterns prevalent in its architecture, mosques, and tiled walls and floors. Influenced by the works of the Surrealists, his soft, richly colored works include scenes of artisans at work, Marrakech street scenes, entertainers in the Jemma el Fna square, and local traditions among the people. 

Azéma’s small-format paintings reveal a dreamlike representation of Morocco, which closely represents the pictorial language of such surrealists as Giorgio de Chirico and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Azéma’s paintings greatly influenced a large number of aspiring Moroccan artists during the 1930s, including Marrakech artist Mohamed Ben Allel, whom Azéma encouraged to paint without heed of traditions.

Jacques Azéma was a professor of drawing and painting in Marrakech. As part of the group organized by Mahjoub Ben Seddik, one of the founders of the Moroccan Labor Union, Azéma taught painting workshops at Casblanca’s École des Beaux-Arts from 1962 to 1974. He also taught animated painting workshps at Marrkech’s Lycée Mangin High School, where he made an impact on its art students.

Jacques Azéma passed away in 1979 in Marrakech. A retrospective of his lifetime achievements and unique body of work was shown in 2008-2009 at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech. Many of his works are in private collections.

Hedda Sterne

The Artwork of Hedda Sterne

Born Hedwig Lindenberg in Bucharest, Romania, in 1910, Hedda Sterne received a rich primary education that included the study of multiple languages, German philosophy, and art history. With the encouragement of Modernist painter and professor Max Hermann Maxy, Sterne began her formal art education in 1918. Her first teacher was the Realist sculptor Frederic Stock, a professor at the Bucharest National University of the Arts. 

As early as 1924, Hedda Sterne gravitated to the Constructivist, Dada, and Surrealist artist communities of Bucharest and Paris. She took classes in ceramics atVienna’s Museum of Fine Arts and, in 1929, enrolled at the University of Bucharest, where she studied under literary and art critic Tudor Vianu, and philosophers Nae Ionescu, and Mircea Florian. In addition to her early work with Frederic Stock, Sterne worked in the studio of Surrealist painter Marcel Janco, who was a co-founder of the Dada movement, and became a close friend with Surrealist painters Victor Brauner and his brother Théodore Brauner, realist painter Jules Perahim, classical painter Medi Wexler, and surrealist poet Gheorghe Dinu.

In the late 1930s, Sterne began her work in the mediums of painting and collage. Drawn to the Surrealist practice of automatism, a process which allows the subconscious mind control over the formation of a work, Sterne  developed her own unique style of collage. Sterne’s collage work was first recognized in 1939 at the Fiftieth annual Salon des Indépendants in Paris, where her work was singled out by painter Jean Arp, who recommended her work to art patron and collector Peggy Guggenheim. After the outbreak of World War II and the Bucharest pogrom, Sterne was able to acquire the necessary visas for travel, which enabled her to embark from Lisbon and sail to New York in October of 1941. 

Settling in Manhattan, Hedda Sterne established an apartment and studio on East 50th Street and soon developed a close friendship with Peggy Guggenheim, a close neighbor on Beekman Place. Sterne re-united with many Surrealistic artists she had known in Paris, including Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and André Breton. She also began a close friendship with author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, whom she encouraged to illustrate his own book “The Little Prince”. Involved with the circle of New York School of artists, Sterne’s work was included in surrealism’s seminal exhibition in the United States, “The First Papers of Surrealism”,  held in October of 1942 at Manhattan’s Whitelaw Reid Mansion.

By 1943 Sterne’s work was regularly show in exhibitions at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery, including the 1943 “Exhibition by 31 Women”. In November of 1943, Sterne had her first solo show in the United States at the Manhattan’s Wakefield Gallery, organized by art dealer and collector Betty Parsons. This began a nearly forty-year collaboration between Sterne and Parsons, who represented her after the opening of her own gallery, the Betty Parsons Gallery, in 1947.

Throughout her career, Hedda Sterne’s diverse series of artwork were a reflection of the changing world around her.  In the 1940s, she began to draw inspiration from the motion, architecture and scale of her new New York surroundings.  Following a visit to Vermont with her husband and fellow artist Saul Steinberg, Sterne began studying farm machinery, as well as the construction sites and harbors of New York and post-war Paris. By the 1950s, these Machine paintings and drawings had evolved into a series about motion itself.   Often utilizing commercial spray paint to invoke a feeling of speed, Sterne’s large gestural canvases of the mid-1950s were inspired by city bridges and her travels on highways around the United States.

Hedda Sterne began, in the 1960s, to explore new themes in her work, expanding beyond the inspiration of her immediate surrounding to include her interests in science and philosophy.  The qualities of light and space were often a central focus of investigation in Stern’s work.  While on a Fulbright Fellowship in Venice in 1963, she experimented with mosaic and refined a series entitled “Vertical-Horizontals”, paintings that invoked an expansive, horizontal landscape, whose reach, however, was confined within a vertical format. Later in the decade, as drawing took on a more central role in her practice, Sterne developed dense and intricate organic abstractions in series entitled “Lettuces and Baldanders”.

In addition to exploring both physical and conceptual subjects in her work, Sterne also produced both geometric and organic abstractions.  Among her largest series of works on canvas are her 1980s “Patterns of Thought” paintings, in which she, now in her seventies, explored the universality of signs and symbols through prismatic geometric structures.  While doing this series, Sterne also developed various drawings and loose studies of nature, with elaborate organic structures and ghostly apparitions emerging from the page.

Hedda Sterne was a prolific artist who maintained  a daily practice of making art throughout a career that spanned nine decades. Her work intersected with some of the most important movements and figures of twentieth-century art. Even though affected by macular degeneration, she continued to create new work in her eighties and nineties; unable to paint by 1998, she still drew. Her vision and movement affected by two strokes between 2004 and 2008, Sterne passed away in April of 2011 at the age of one hundred.

In 1977 Hedda Sterne was honored with her first retrospective exhibition of her work at the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey. Her second retrospective entitled “Hedda Sterne: Forty Years” was held at New York’s Queens Museum in 1985. Her third retrospective was held in 2006, entitled “Uninterrupted Flux: Hedda Sterne; A Retrospective:, at the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois.

Top Insert Image: Henri Cartier-Bresson, “Hedda Sterne”, 1961, Silver Gelaton Print.   Second Image: Edith Glogau, “Hedda Sterne, October 1932 Issue of Die Bühne Magazine, Vienna;   Third Image: Lilian Bristol, “Hedda Sterne in Her Studio with Her Portrait of Joan Mitchell”, 1955;   Bottom Image: Nina Leen, Hedda Sterne and New York School of Painters, January 1951 Life Magazine Photo

More information on Hedda Sterne’s life and a complete body of her work cna be found at the Hedda Sterne Foundation located at: https://heddasternefoundation.org

Rateb Seddik

 

Rateb Seddik, “Sans Titre”, 1940. Oil on Wood, 120 x 220 cm, Musee Rateb Seddik Le Caire, Egypt

Founded in December of 1938, the Art et Liberté group in Egypt provided a young generation of intellectuals, artists and activists with a platform for promoting political and cultural reform, with the members playing an active role in the network of the Surrealist movement. At the start of the second World War, the Art et Liberté became part of the international movement defying fascism, nationalism, colonialism, including the British colonial domination of Egypt.

In line with Surrealism’s rejection of the alignment of art with political propaganda, the Art et Liberté rebelled against the merging of art and national sentiment. With their December 1938 manifesto entitled “Vive L’Art Dégéneré (Long Live Degenerate Art)”, the group declared their opposition to the reactionary attacks on art in Hitler’s Germany, epitomized by Munich’s 1937 Entartete Kunst exhibition which ridiculed modern art,  and attacks elsewhere, notably in Vienna and Rome.

Rateb Seddik completed his formal artistic education at both Chelsea College of Art in London, where he was a student of the English surrealist painter Robert Medley, and later in Cairo. Seddik became a member of the Art et Liberté and participated in the group’s fourth exhibition, entitled “For Independent Art”, held on May 12, 1944, at the Lyceé Francais School in Cairo. Despite obstacles that occurred, the show was able to exhibit 150 works of art, including painting, sculpture and photography.

Rateb Seddik’s 1940 “Sans Titre (Untitled)” combines his passions for opera and ancient Egyptian art. The oil-on-wood painting depicts a group of diversely featured human beings who are all equally united by a white cloth symbolizing death or suffering. While the scene resembles a Turkish bathhouse, it also references Stravinsky’s opera of the tragedy of Oedipus Rex. This surrealist masterpiece is a prime example of an artwork that is at once locally rooted and universally informed.

Hartmut Neumann

Paintings by Hartmut Neumann

Born in 1954 in Delmenhorst, Hartmut Neumann is a German surrealist painter, sculptor and photographer. He studied painting and graphics at the University of Arts in Bremen under painter and sculptor Rolf Thiele from 1976 to 1980. In 1983 Neumann received a Scholarship Cité des Arts in Paris. Since 1992 he has been a professor at the University of Fine Arts Braunschweig.

Hartmut Neumann’s works, with their bright colors and dark backgrounds,  construct a world of their own. They take the viewer into micro- and macrocosms, which initially seem untouched and harmonious, but on closer inspection reveal sinister abysses. In his pictorial language, elements of the real, the unconscious, mythology, and chance collide to create an unsettling symbiosis.

Neumann’s view of nature is at turns abstract, sculptural, utopian, or staged. The inexhaustible abundance of his formal repertoire is based on the idea of the “wunderkammer”, where artificial and natural are closely entwined. His enigmatic pictorial sealed places are characterised by opulence and richness of detail. What makes Hartmut Neumann unique in his contemporary landscapes is the way his work reveals the artificiality of nature, as contrived by the artist.

Hartmut Neumann is a member of the Deutscher Künstlerbund, the German Association of Artists, and was a member of the board from 2000 to 2002. He lives in Cologne and Brunswick.

Lara Zankoul

lara-zankoul-the-unseen-2013-cover

Lara Zankoul, “The Unseen” Series, 2013, Color Photograph #13

Lara Zankoul, is an interdisciplinary artist and self-taught photographer based in Beirut, Lebanon. Her work captures everyday human behavior and issues that occur within society through photographic media. The aim is to invite the viewers to come up with their own interpretation and understanding of the photographs and the stories behind them.

Lara Zankoul’s images often explore the mysteries of the human psyche, combining unusual elements with ordinary life. Her 2013 ” The Unseen” series features contemporary scenarios literally immersed in pools of water that occupy their living space, creating playful narratives. Zankoul does not use any kind of digital manipulation; all these artworks are done strictly through the sole use of camera.

Kay Sage

Kay Sage, “Festa”, 1947, Oil on Canvas, 46 x 36 cm, Private Collection

Kay Sage was an American surrealist and poet. A member of the Golden Age and Post-War periods of Surrealism, Sage is mostly recognized for her artistic works, which typically contain themes of an architectural nature. She received her formal training in art at the Corcoran Art School in Washington DC in 1919 to 1920. She later studied art in Rome for several years, learning conventional techniques and styles.

Kay Sage’s exposure to surrealism at the International Surrealist Exhibit at Galerie Beaux-Arts in 1938 inspired Sage to begin painting in earnest. She exhibited six of her new oils in the Salon des Surindépendants show at the Porte de Versailles in the fall of 1938. These semiabstract paintings, including “Afterwards” and “The World is Blue”, borrowed motifs and styles from de Chirico and the Surrealists, but showed hints of Sage’s own future work as well.

Dariusz Klimczak

The Surreal Photography of Dariusz Klimczak

Polish photographer Dariusz Klimczak composes dreamlike landscapes that hypnotize with their surprise and weirdness. The photographer’s digital photo manipulations open the door to his imaginative world, where a desolate desert is brought to life by quirky and playful characters. Everyday items clash in odd compositions with animals and humans, conflicting with gravity and the other physical laws without which our common sense would collapse.

Dariusz Klimczak has been a professional photographer for 30 years, a few of which he spent creating photo manipulations. The artist prefers monochromatic images which present the scenes with a more authentic and mystical quality.

James Mortimer

James Mortimer: Paintings, Oil on Linen

James Mortimer, a painter and a sculptor, was born in Swindon, Wiltshire in 1989. He was educated at a Catholic School and studied sculpture at the Bath School of Art, receiving the Kenneth Armitage Prize for Sculpture. Mortimer now devotes himself to painting imagined scenes of immoral excess, mythical creatures and larger than life characters. He is represented by the Catto Gallery on Heath Street in London.

James Mortimer’s fey boys inhabit a world of uncomplicated decadence, a surreal Renaissance landscape where man and beast exist together on increasingly equal terms. Inhibitions go out the window; each is a slave to their own nature. The ensuing relationships provide fertile ground for myriad little dramas as the companions look to get along. Animals become mischievous, even vicious at times. Their masters try to rise above it, retaining an almost Imperial sense of composure, but in the process find themselves somehow detached, lost even, gazing wistfully into the opium haze of their peculiar adopted land.

Whilst seemingly simple, there is wealth of drama playing out behind the scenes. Visual puns and innuendoes pepper his paintings like Freudian slips of the brush. Every fruit and every plant is pregnant with suggestion. Exoticism and the thrill of travel also permeate every scene, like Victorian Boy’s Own adventures that have turned slightly spicy and risqué. And underneath it all, there is a simmering sexuality. These characters are vain, vice-loving and beautiful.

Note: an Extensive collection of James Mortimer’s work can be found at: http://www.jamesmortimerart.com/paintings

art@cattogallery.co.uk

Ed Paschke

Ed Paschke, “Gypsy Blue”, 2001, Oil on Linen, 36 x 40 Inches

Ed Paschke was born in Chicago where he spent most of his life as an important painter. He was initially associated in the late 1960s with the second generation of Chicago Imagists who called themselves The Hairy Who. He received his B.F.A. from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 1961 and his M.F.A. in 1970.

Between 1961 and 1970, Paschke lived for a time in New York where he easily came under the influence of the Pop Art movement, in part, because of his interests as a child in animation and cartoons. His fascination with the print media of popular culture led to a portrait-based art of cultural icons. Paschke used the celebrity figure, real or imagined, as a vehicle for explorations of personal and public identity with social and political implications.

Although his style is representational, with a loose affiliation to Photorealism, Paschke’s art plays heavily upon expressionist distortion and abstract form. The often grotesque cast to his paintings suggests an affiliation in spirit with Surrealism, a movement that has historically interested Chicago artists and collectors.

In the 1970s, Paschke’s figures, now presented primarily as headshots in extreme close-ups, began to wear masks and unusual headgear. Colors became electric; forms were increasingly distorted by video-like disturbances; facial features of mouth, eyes, and nose were hollowed out or veiled with aggressive color shapes. These features became standard elements of Paschke’s disquieting and compelling art.

Remedios Varo

Remedios Varo, “Creating with Astral Rays”, 1955, Oil on Canvas

The visionary lone painter, Remedios Varo, typically portrays herself sitting at a desk engaged in magical work, embarking on a journey to unlock true meaning, or dissolving completely into the environment that surrounds her. As a well-studied alchemist, seeker, and naturalist, however dreamlike her imagery may appear, it is in fact reality observed more clearly; Varo painted deep, intuitive, and multi-sensory pictures in hope to inspire learning and promote better individual balance in an interconnected universe.

Interestingly, and understandably, it was not until the last 13 years of the artist’s life, having fled war-torn Europe, found home in Mexico (amongst a community of other displaced Surrealists) and finally become free of ongoing financial constraints, that Varo was able to paint prolifically. Every work completed by Varo demonstrates profound technical skill and an extraordinary insight into human nature.

Although an avid believer in the inter-relatedness of all things and people, including the inter-weave of sound, light and image, her paintings are not typically populated by multiple figures. Instead we are usually introduced to an isolated creaturely hybrid thinker/artist character, reminiscent of St. Jerome in his study or a wise crone wandering in search of new discoveries.Varo repeatedly situates mystical machines in her pictures.

While in most cases such industrial looking devices function to make products that can be touched, held, and made use of, Varo’s structures are here to process that which we cannot see. As our emotions and psychological lives are intangible and invisible, it is useful to investigate them within some kind of known parameters, i.e. within a previously encountered system. Therefore, such apparatus, however made strange, help us to communicate what would be otherwise unspeakable ideas.