5-50 Gallery is pleased to present Afflatus, a group show curated by Suzanne Unrein and Amy Hill. The show will include twenty artists united by their reinterpretation of classical art, and will run from May 22 to June 23 with a closing reception Thursday, June 20, from 6-9 PM.
The timelessness of history’s masterworks leads many artists to look to them for inspiration, from Manet’s nod to Giorgione to Picasso’s homage to Velazquez. They draw lessons on techniques and compositions, while creating something rich with humanity. Continuing this tradition, the artists in Afflatus make a strong connection between past and present. They use a diverse range of drawings, paintings, collages, sculptures and digital media, from the lenticular of a Ming vase with Baroque monkey by Mary Ann Strandell to Michael Rees’s augmented reality of a fly hovering over a romantic landscape. The works move us back and forth between eras and compel us to consider our own location in time.
A number of artists in the exhibit draw from a particular masterwork they feel a kinship with and take ownership with their own interpretations. Michael Mapes breaks up a Dutch portrait with fragments of sometimes related photographs, Deborah Brown imbues a Watteau figure with painterly brushwork, and Janice Nowinski brings a Masolino masterpiece to the brink of abstraction. Kyle Staver’s monoprint mirrors Velazquez’s equestrian portraits, a fifteenth century nun goes punk rock in an Amy Hill portrait, and Alex Melamid makes studies of Raphael’s drawings to learn lessons from one of the greatest draftsmen of all time.
The same learning process shows up in other artists, although this time imbuing rather than referring, as if they apprenticed with their masters and moved on. Sherie Franssen’s kinetic brushstrokes carry the spirit of Michelangelo, the emotions of the Baroque guide Suzanne Unrein’s compositions, and Charles Browning might have spent a former life in the 15th century. Kathleen Gilje’s training as an Italian conservator leads her to create a drawing of one of Ruben’s satyrs on a motorcycle, Julie Heffernan borrows the brushes and palettes of Tintoretto and El Greco, and Linda Griggs channels Leonardo, cooking up the same ink he used.
The infrastructure for other artists in the show is the reproduction, which lends itself easily to collage or the look of collage. Alexander Gorlizki’s print of a Renaissance era Madonna is enhanced by a curious looking painted creature right out of the Muppets. Ruth Marten’s gentleman in a ruff becomes more appealing and more improbable with her surrealistic spin. Using a cold graphic overlay, Sydney Cash turns Durer digital. Betty Tompkins uses the reproduction too, but with a different twist. She paints text directly on a print of a Titian work to address feminist issues. Barbara Friedman similarly references gender and body issues in her painting of a free-floating ruff, and Yonadav Greenwood alludes to the human body as well, by utilizing the idiosyncrasies and subtexts of the Old Masters to create a highly erotic lactation.
Afflatus celebrates the combining of old ideas with modern sensibilities, producing a wide variety of outcomes. Whether it’s a guide to self-expression, a rite of passage, or a gateway to the future, these contemporary artists borrow freely from the past adding to a dialogue that began centuries ago.
Deborah Brown, Charles Browning, Sydney Cash, Sherie Franssen, Barbara Friedman, Kathleen Gilje, Alexander Gorlizki, Yonadav Greenwood, Linda Griggs, Julie Heffernan, Amy Hill, Michael Mapes, Ruth Marten, Alex Melamid, Janice Nowinski, Michael Rees, Kyle Staver, Mary Ann Strandell, Betty Tompkins, Suzanne Unrein