Opening on Thursday, May 30, 2019, it is the artist’s second with the gallery. Examining in-depth Greenwold’s idiosyncratic representations of sex, love, and violence, the exhibition surveys his artistic career from 1964 to 2018.
Greenwold’s meticulously detailed, psychologically complex paintings often vary dramatically in style and scale, however his cast of “characters” remains consistent. The same narrative thread can be drawn throughout almost his entire oeuvre. He does not look far to find subjects to act out his inner torment. Family, friends, and lovers all figure prominently in his work. Interpersonal relationships are Greenwold’s primary interest, hence the “dramatic action” often unfolds either inside or immediately adjacent to a “home.”
Greenwold’s interiors are like psychodramatic funhouses rife with past traumas and current fantasies. In perhaps his most iconic work, The Sewing Room (for Barbara) (1975–1979), the artist treats that most intimate of human interactions—domestic violence. Hardly a glorification, this painting, in addition to other, more contemporary examples, such as A Magic Summer (2017), demonstrates the complexities of this type of exchange. Just as often as violence is implied, so, too, is sex. Secret Storm (1970–1971) is among the most controversial paintings of this theme–and the most often censored. The painting captures two people mid-coitus, with a third perhaps joining soon.
Yet, in the artist’s paintings, the most shocking element is not always the content but, rather, the level of precision with which Greenwold portrays these raucous scenes. His famously laborious process mirrors the emotional intensity of his paintings. Greenwold works under magnification, like a jeweler, employing the tiniest of brushes. He builds up the surfaces stroke by stroke, all the while flipping between various preparatory photographs and drawings. The result is a kind of delirious realism in which everything portrayed, however realistic, is actually composed of thousands upon thousands of beautiful abstractions.
Born in Cleveland in 1942, Mark Greenwold studied painting at Carnegie Mellon University, the Cleveland Institute of Art, and Indiana University. Since 1979, he has had only ten solo-exhibitions, two of which contained only one painting. His 1995 mid-career retrospective, Mark Greenwold: The Odious Facts, 1975–1995, contained a scant 27 works—virtually his entire mature oeuvre—and took place at the Colby College Museum of Art. His paintings have appeared in numerous recent group exhibitions, including Disparities and Deformations: Our Grotesque (2005, SITE Santa Fe), Embracing Modernism (2015, Morgan Library and Museum), and Intimacy in Discourse (2015, Mana Contemporary).