Figure Focus presents an exploration of figurative painting by 15 contemporary artists.
“I believe that in American art, there can be no ‘return’ to the figure,” wrote Fairfield Porter in 1962, in his review of the MoMA show Recent Painting in the USA: The Figure. “A movement toward painting the figure will be new, not renewed. It will be the first time American painters have tackled the problem directly. And there are in America today a number of artists who paint the figure without affectation, sentimentality, or evasiveness, and who do not follow criticism, but precede it.”
Figuration in painting has ebbed and flowed over the years before and since Porter, both painter and art critic, suggested this. Like undulating waves on the long tide of art history, the subject matter rises and falls, in and out of favor, sometimes receding to the depths of the ocean and at others, crashing to the shore. Contemporary figurative painting is once again having a moment. But, as Porter points out, it’s not that artists switch gears to accommodate taste, but rather the view of writers, critics, and collectors change depending on how figurative art speaks to an audience at any given moment in time. What makes the figure so poignant in the zeitgeist of today? Why in times of societal strife and technological dominance do people look to figuration for an expression of the human experience? And why is figurative painting the perennial interest and focus of young artists who are seduced by it in art schools, at the beginning of their journeys as artists? These were the questions on my mind when I put this exhibition together.
Figure Focus is an exhibition that aims to address these questions by examining the work of several contemporary painters who make figurative work. The exhibition invites viewers to investigate multiple facets of the figure in art including psychological, societal, and formalistic considerations. The paintings can be viewed both aesthetically and conceptually and inspire, confirm, and unmoor historic and current ideas of figurative painting.
All of the artists in this show present the figure in terms of a metaphor, motif, or social commentary, and spark in the viewer their own feelings about relationships with, and empathy for, other people. In this work we are not simply voyeurs, but rather participants in the recognition of each other and the variety of our individual lives.
Figure Focus has been curated by Andrew Fish, a Boston-based painter who studied at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Fish is represented by Childs Gallery in Boston and is Visiting Lecturer at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Fish is also an adjunct drawing instructor at Lesley College of Art and Design in Cambridge, MA.
Artists in the exhibition include: