POUGHKEEPSIE, NY.- Today, the body you were born with is no longer a fixed entity. In our appearance-obsessed society, people can change the physical contours of their bodies in a myriad of ways. Now, a bold new exhibition at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center will explore the modern human form as it is imagined by contemporary artists.
Out of Shape: Stylistic Distortions of the Human Form in Art from the Logan Collection is drawn from one of the most prominent private collections of international contemporary art in the United States. Many of the artists whose works Vicki (Vassar class of 1968) and Kent Logan have collected are known for depictions of the human form that explore issues of psychological identity, and that reinvent figuration as a conceptual tool.
Exhibitions of works from the Logan collection have previously been organized by and presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Aspen Art Museum, and The Victoria H. Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver. But Out of Shape is the first exhibition of the Logan collection to highlight the theme of figurative distortion and focus exclusively on the works on paper in the collection.
Thirty-five works on paper by 27 artists are presented in the exhibition, many of which have not been displayed publicly since they entered the Logan collection. Out of Shape will be shown Friday, March 14, 2008 through Sunday, June 8, 2008 at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and will be exclusively exhibited at Vassar. One of the exhibiting artists will lecture at the museum's reception on Friday evening, April 25.
"The works in this exhibition reflect some of the universal anxieties that plague the human condition, and speak to the fragility of life," said Mary-Kay Lombino of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, who curated Out of Shape in collaboration with the Logans. "In our digital age, one can now embody a new identity based on an imaginary persona or fabricated image. As a result, we see ourselves in the virtual, the physical, and the psychological realms each a legitimate reality that comprises our experience of the world.
Kent Logan explains that their collection is often referred to as figurative, however, while many works use the figure, they are not about the figure. The figure is used in a conceptual sense. He continues by saying that much of contemporary art that deals with the human figure has been moving from representational realism to complex, psychologically charged conceptual portraits reflecting the issues of contemporary society.
Out of Shape will feature the following artists: Laylah Ali, Cecily Brown, Francesco Clemente, George Condo, John Currin, Kim Dingle, Nicole Eisenman, Moyna Flanagan, Gajin Fujita, Antony Gormley, Gottfried Helwein, Oliver Herring, Kurt Kauper, Fang Lijun, Kelly McLane, Jason Middlebrook, Bruce Nauman, Chris Ofili, Richard Phillips, Marc Quinn, Mel Ramos, Thomas Schütte, Nicola Tyson, Andy Warhol, John Wesley, Su-en Wong, and Lisa Yuskavage. All but Warhol are living and actively engaged in the contemporary art world.
Various themes and concerns are explored by the artists including gender, social, and ethnic identity perception of the self (Su-en Wong); distortions of scale (Eisenman and Philips); use of cartoon or highly stylized imagery (Wesley, Ali, Fujita, Ofili); utilizing the superhero image (Warhol and Ramos); revisiting the Surreal figure (Tyson, Dingle, Quinn, Gormley); composite images of fictional characters (Kauper, Yuskavage, Currin, Lijun, Schütte); emotionally charged faces and forms (Flannigan, Gottfried, Helnwein); a twisted notion of reality that reflects a dark world view (McLane, Middlebrook); images of the human form moving through time and space (Herring, Nauman); and the spirit of Neo-expressionism (Clemente, Brown).
The artists imagination plays an enormous role in the work of Nicola Tyson, represented by two drawings in the exhibition. Her works, which feature strangely disproportioned figures, are linked to surrealism both visually in the expressive distortion of particular features, as well as in their reliance on the practice of automatic drawing. The resulting figures combine elements of both the comic and the grotesque, evoking both the strength and vulnerability of the human form.
Richard Phillips work investigates the potential of media images to distort truth, disguise reality, and wield power over individuals. A drawing entitled Mirror by Phillips in this exhibition is from a series of dizzying large-scale paintings and preparatory drawings featuring monolithic, extreme close-ups of womens faces. The women resemble the ubiquitous female faces we know from billboards and magazine ads that saturate the visual landscape. His works possess all of the sensual and erotic charge of an image from consumer culture yet Phillips painterly style, softer texture, and warm, rich tones set them apart from Pop imagery.
Layla Ali's gouache-and-ink drawings often feature ambiguous cartoon-like allegorical figures. Frozen in mysterious narratives, her signature figures with their matching uniforms and bulbous green heads are intentionally genderless and raceless but often reveal a sinister undercurrent apparent in the obvious power struggles between various groups. Alis comic aesthetic initially charms and disarms viewers, drawing them into a world fraught with tension and ambiguity.
The arresting, sometimes haunting, imagery, for which Francesco Clemente has gained international acclaim, is exemplified by Fifty One Days on Mount Abu: XIII, Tapas, an expressive watercolor in the exhibition. While he often physically distorts the human figure in his work, it is the emotional impact of Clementes dynamic gestures and vibrant colors that leaves an impression on the viewer.