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Do It Yourself: A solo exhibition of paintings by Eli Gabriel Halpern at Sue Scott Gallery
While Halpern’s ideas originate from this overarching narrative prompt, the depicted image on each canvas remains malleable throughout the process.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sue Scott Gallery announced Do It Yourself, a solo exhibition of paintings by Eli Gabriel Halpern running through July 27, 2012. This series of paintings envisions a community that governs itself based on a “do it yourself” philosophy and the back-to-the-basics approach that permeates our culture from politics to home décor. The inhabitants build their own homes, fish when they are hungry, and construct elaborate attire out of scraps of carpets, blankets, window shades, and other random detritus.

An enthusiasm for simpler times prevails, whether it’s the Tea Party’s deification of the Founding Fathers and its obsession with the Constitution, or the voguish trend of making everything out of reclaimed barn wood. Coupled with the dread of various apocalyptic scenarios – nuclear war, financial collapse, or climate change – this longing leads us to the notion that we would all benefit from leading a more rugged, self-sufficient lifestyle. The romanticization of a rustic individualism has always run deep in the American imaginary, but now seems at odds with the entrenched, hands-off, contemporary culture of convenience dependent on modern technology.

While Halpern’s ideas originate from this overarching narrative prompt, the depicted image on each canvas remains malleable throughout the process. Cobbled together from many disparate parts, his references can be wide-ranging, borrowing techniques and styles not only from the immense reserves of painting’s long history but also from fashion magazines, advertisements, and newspapers. At a certain point, representation of the intended image becomes secondary and competes for primacy with pattern, line, mark making, and compositional balance. Since Halpern’s world is imaginary, figures, objects, and landscapes can be added or removed as needed. The finished painting results from a negotiation between the materiality of the paint and the illusionary possibilities that arise over the course of making the work.

Everyone from Oscar Wilde to Yukio Mishima to Jim Carrey has had something to say about masks. As much as masks are objects used to hide identity, here, they reveal even more about the subject in terms of personal aesthetics, access to materials, and craftsmanship. The inspiration results from the artist leafing through books of Old Master portraits, relying on the subjects’ clothes and adornments to understand their identity and status. The masks help open areas of the canvas otherwise confined within the known limits and tonal range of the human face, allowing for possibilities of abstraction and expressionism in what is traditionally the focal point of figurative work. Rather than a means of disguise, the homemade masks become a form of self-realization.

Eli Gabriel Halpern was born in 1986 in Queens, New York. He received his BFA in 2008 from Cooper Union, graduating with the Pietro and Alfrieda Montana Prize for Excellence in Sculpture. He is a recent MFA graduate from the School of Visual Arts.

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