This past weekend, Joshua Liner Gallery in NYC opened their summer group show, Summer Breaks. Through the lens of seventeen different artists, the exhibition is an exploration into three major themes within Western Art History - portraiture, landscape and the still life. While each artist plays upon the past, Summer Breaks is meant to re-define classicism and bring forward contemporary work for viewers of a digital age, one free of convention.
If you’ve taken any Art History course or hell, even seen a movie or been to a museum, you'd know that portraiture has always reigned supreme in art. Historically speaking, royal families, religious oligarchs as well as wealthy merchants and traders have been the main source of patronage for the past few hundred years. In Summer Breaks, two artists approach portraiture with a contemporary edge, re-contextualizing the practice in their own unique way. Bay Area based artist Libby Black, known primarily for her colorful paper sculptures, pokes fun at the idea of celebrity as royalty and submits a theatrical portrait of 1970’s Hollywood actress and personality, Liza Minelli. David Henry Nobody Jr., a well known performance artist and shock factor extraordinaire submits the quintessential artist self portrait, done in his typical deconstructed and gruesome style.
Still life, since it’s inception, has been a tool for artists to observe and analyze the world around them as well as address the impermanence of life through visual symbology. In this exhibition, John Gordon Gauld’s The Fish Ribbon does just that and pays homage to the Dutch Flemish still lives of the 17th century with contemporary subject matter and approach. On the other end of the stylistic spectrum, New York based artist Paul Wackers presents a more abstracted and colorful display, showcasing flat and graphic objects resting on a narrow shelf in a sea of fragmented green foliage. Both artists share the same desire to examine their relationships with the world around them, however they execute in decidedly different ways.
Last, but definitely not least, comes the timeless landscape painting. Dating back to antiquity, artists have always wanted a way to connect with nature and their surrounding environment. Brooklyn based artist Sam Friedman is no different. His paintings oscillate between the representational and abstract, all while creating a fluid visual thread to the natural world. For his piece in Summer Breaks, we see a classic pastoral scene of lush greenery atop a body of water. Carried out in his distinct brightly bold and layered graphic style, the piece becomes an elemental collage of pattern and color.
While we know history repeats itself, painting will continue to shift and change and build upon the traditional motifs of the past. Summer Breaks is a vessel for this transition and through multiple perspectives comes an exhibition that nods to the past while simultaneously showcasing some of the best and brightest of the future. From the curator: “By operating from within these genres, the artists are able to question and build upon our own understandings of these conventional art practices. With contemporary subjects and new techniques, these artists stand upon the past, to work towards an expansion of their predecessors, rather than a replacement.”
All photos courtesy of Jessica Ross