transFIGURE: The Body in Motion and Transition
Exhibition Dates
September 8 - October 18, 2006

While the human figure remains a staple of contemporary painting, it is often described as a still, static object. This exhibition focuses on depictions of the body that emphasize it's capacity for movement. By investigating the motivations the artists in this exhibition have for exploring the concept of movement, metaphors for transition and narratives of change are revealed. While the formal approaches on view vary from artist to artist, a powerful and dynamic sense of human presence and potential link this work together.

Featured Artists

Michiko Itatani

With an avid interest in fiction, Michiko Itatani strongly believes in its ability to tell deep truths in relation to the human psyche, society and politics. Originally wanting to be a fiction writer, she eventually appropriated these influences into her visual art. Itatani pursues her imaging by gathering fragments from all manner of life experiences, mutating them, making images, and putting the fragments together to interact with each other...her fiction writing. Itatani's paintings employ the fictional creations of "views of space," examining such issues as the human body and the cosmos, flesh and technology, the individual and the state, desire and choice, taboo and obsession. Itatani sees her work as a complicated layering of events both real and imagined where the idea of "view" is a psychological construct revealing who we are. Michiko Itatani has been a powerful force in the Chicago Art Scene for 25 years. She is a professor at the School of the Art Institute and has shown her work world wide. A selection of major collections include: The Art Institute of Chicago; The Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona; and the Block Museum of Art.

Pictured above right is: Untitled Painting from Highpoint Contact, 1989, oil on canvas mounted on panel, 29"x 29"

Joseph Hronek

Chicago artist Joseph Hronek explores time honored genres of painting with his amazingly small, intimate, precisionist still life, landscapes and portraits.

Figures move, or so my students in life drawing classes tell me. No matter how hard they try to sit still, even the best models will shift their weight and change expression. Painting and drawing the human figure requires combining many disparate moments into a single, unchanging moment. These paintings depict some of those moments typically edited from the final product. - Joseph Hronek

Pictured above right is Blinking Nude, 2006, oil on panel, 7"x7"

Tim Lowly

Lowly’s approach to painting is spiritual and contemplative: in his work space becomes a form of meditation. Through dramatic shifts in scale and perspective, through juxtapositions of speed and slowness, and through an awareness of the body’s relationship to the painted image, the work speaks of the mystery of sight and desire. Through seeing we understand and enlarge the world, while at the same time, seeing has the effect of putting distance between the self and what we are looking at. These paintings have a strong sense of interiority, privacy, and solitude. The paintings seem as much about looking as they are about space or the body ­– about contemplating the distance between.

Pictured above right is Adam, 1997, egg tempera on panel, 8"x12", (private collection).

Julia Katz

Julia Katz discusses her work:
"My 19 year old son, Greg, was on a mission to learn how to salsa dance this summer. He practiced his moves on anyone who would dance with him. Obviously, girlfriends were his preferred partners, but he would practice his moves with anyone, and as often as possible. Since his brothers flatly refused to cooperate, he often had to resort to dancing with me, his mother, when no girls were available. That was an amazing gift of fun with my son that I will always cherish. These paintings arose from the salsa moves that I watched and danced this summer along with the music and youthful exuberance that filled my house. Trying to focus on expressing the movement, I worked from photos that I shot of my son dancing with his friend in my living room. The paintings also reflect my continuing interest in the psychological connection, disconnection, and collision within human relationships. In these paintings each partner dances in his own half of the painting, but responds to the rhythm and movement of the other, breaching the divide."

In Counterclockwork, a young man is shown sitting firmly in his chair, showing no inclination toward movement. He is resting in the same green chair in each of his 4 positions. Yet, as an element of the painting, he is spinning like a pinwheel in a counterclockwise direction and his 4 sets of feet are doing a jig. There is a suggestion of the rhythm in his daily habits that lands him in the same place, perhaps to recuperate from the actions that have occurred in between.

Pictured above right is Partners 1, 18"x24", 2006, acrylic on panel. Click on image to enlarge.

Steph Roberts

Steph Roberts paints images of divers in an exploration of the themes of control, surrender, struggle, and destiny. By freezing the action of human figures caught tumbling in space, she attempts to address modern man's existential concerns for meaning and order. In much the same way as a diver works with and against gravity in order to achieve artful grace and precision, the figures in her paintings become metaphors for the intersection of the human and the divine. Out of this tension, suspended moments of beauty and grace are revealed.

Roberts discusses her paintings:
"These recent diver paintings continue to explore the dichotomy of free will and destiny. Even in their precise and controlled movements, the divers themselves strain against pervasive natural forces. Despite the engagement of muscle and speed, the figure is always falling through space. This relationship speaks to the assertion of human will in the context of circumstances beyond one's control."

"I suspend the motion of the figure in an ambiguous space which more readily allows a metaphoric reading. In some of the compositions, the handling of the paint hints at a substantive presence that fluctuates from receding in the distance to more abstract smudging and drips of color that push against and around the figure. In my manipulation of oil paint, I am heavily influenced by the traditional techniques of Caravaggio and Rembrandt. But I also incorporate a contemporary flavor in color usage, in the play of flat versus deep space, and in the emphasis on the tactile surface of the painting."

Pictured above right is Side Item, 2006, 28x28, oil on panel
Click on image to enlarge

James Mesplé

Mesplé's interest in mythology was born out of summers spent with his grandfather - who was half Osage and shared with him Native American tales of nature and animals. This led to his interest in classical mythology at an early age. The common theme of the battle between good and evil, "the balance of the Cosmos," provides Mesplé with much material for his paintings. "Myths, which are certainly a part of the foundation of contemporary American culture," says Mesplé, "are stories full of wonder and mystery..."

Says Mesplé: "Although I'm interested in harmony and balance within my own compositions -- often I find myself drawn to asymmetrical forms of balanced elements which move the eye of the observer through and around the composition. Perhaps my interest in classical music -- especially Baroque and especially Bach contribute to this interest. I'm interested in figures that create movement without necessarily representing the action."

"Figures which merely imply movement through a gesture; the juxtaposition of shapes or forms in close proximity; or an actual metamorphosis in the process of transition, all capture my interest. I'm also fascinated by a narritive or action which is about to take place and even the contemplation of an action which has just transpired. In my opinion, figurative art which suggests a movement or the passage of time in some regard -- transforms an ordinary painting into a memorable image."

Pictured above right is The Touch of Apollo, 48"x36", 2006, oil on canvas. Click image to enlarge.

Margaret Lazzari

Margaret Lazzari is a classically trained figurative artist who uses the human form to explore issues of gender and sexuality as well as spiritual and emotional states.

Lazzari couples a keen intelligence with dazzling sensuality to create a body of work which is personal, idiosyncratic, of its time and, paradoxically, timeless.

Margaret Lazzari is an artist and writer who lives in Los Angeles. She is an Associate Professor at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California. In 1995, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for a series of paintings and drawings presenting a broader view of beauty than the limited one found in mass media.

This exhibition features 2 large scale charcoal drawings, as well as animated videos created by repeatedly photographing the drawing in process. The figures literally move across the picture plane, leaving the traces of their making in their wake.

Pictured above right is SCREAM, 2004, Conte on paper, 44" x 30". Click on image to enlarge.

(digital animated sequence based on twenty different states of the original conte drawing, approximately 30 seconds, one of four sequences included on limited edition DVD)

Frank Ryan

Frank Ryan on his work:
"Human action is literally transformation. The movement of the figure either in the physical sense, the passage through space or in the sense of growth, change, maturation and decline seem to me to be directly correlated. I am interested in how movement of the body in all of its nuances of function and form somehow aspire to prolong living. The content of these works are of the quotidian experience of life as I see it. But these day to day experiences are far from the banal or mundane. One can focus on the smallest most common of details of daily interaction and see how it shapes and contributes to the fundamental idea of one's self. It is a self that is permeable, the boundaries of which extend beyond the confines of the skin."

Pictured above right is Chinatown, 2006, oil on linen over panel, 16" x 20". Click on image to enlarge.

Joyce Polance

Joyce Polance's paintings reveal intimate subjects and themes - women, family, self-portraiture, and the complexity of relationships. Exploiting the layered plasticity of the wax, Polance plumbs the psychological depths of her subjects, creating almost dream-like spaces. With varying degrees of translucency and opacity, figures move in and out of abstract environments, often merging into them. This work suggests a range of moods - joy, fancy, explosiveness - yet leaves open space for the viewer's own identification.

Pictured above right is Recovery, 2005, encaustic and oil on panel, 48" x 72". Click on image to enlarge.

transFIGURE: The Body in Motion and Transition
On view through October 18, 2006 Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 - 6:00

for more information, call: 312.664.3406 or email at: info@gwendajay.com

Opening night of "transFIGURE"

Opening night of "transFIGURE"