In English-speaking cultures, the term “still-life painting” is commonly used to refer to the depiction of inanimate objects for the sake of their qualities of form, color, texture, and composition. This phrase is a direct translation of the Dutch term stillleven, which was coined during the 17th century in the midst of Holland’s “golden age” of still-life painting. The French and the Italians, however, always referred to this genre, which dates back to antiquity, as la nature morte or la natura morta, meaning “dead nature.” The process of creating nature morte paintings could be described as follows. An artist carefully chooses a particular subject and, inspired by a desire to capture its inherent beauty, manipulates it so that he may intimately observe and render its formal qualities. However, by imposing his own observations upon a naturally existing subject, the artist ironically violates and destroys its very purity. The name Nature Morte/Dead Nature was consciously chosen for this exhibition. While the Dutch “still life” seems to imply a pausing of life in order to contemplate its qualities, the French/Italian “dead nature” has a much harsher implication. The artist captures the splendor of nature at a moment of perfection; but at the same time, he must arrest his subject’s natural course in order to reap the rewards he desires. In our contemporary era of global warming and rapidly dwindling natural resources, in which our own plundering of the earth has brought us to the brink of disaster, the quaint old term nature morte perhaps takes on new currency, and new urgency. As civilization has advanced, so has mankind manipulated the cycles of nature to its own advantage; but ultimately, to what end? The works in Nature Morte/Dead Nature express humanity’s troubled, ambiguous relationship with nature through contemporary interpretations of the traditional still-life genre. Through the paintings, sculptures, and photographs of artists Ori Gersht, Penelope Gottlieb, Kaoru Mansour, Melvin Martinez, Cristina Lei Rodriguez, Andrew Taylor and Timothy Tompkins, this exhibition presents seven distinct new ways of working with nature as subject matter.
Both brutal and stunningly beautiful, Ori Gershtâ€™s high-speed digital photographs meticulously capture the explosion of elegant floral arrangements. The resulting paradox between creation and destruction is a mirror of European history, fraught with both aesthetic achievement and terrible violence.
Blow Up: Untitled 4, 2007, Light jet print mounted on aluminum, 96 x 72 in., Ed 5/6
Penelope Gottlieb refers to her drawings as â€œvisual eulogies for lost plant life.â€? Working from vintage botanical renderings and descriptions of threatened plant species, she creates comic-book images of lost or soonto-be-lost plants, exploding them in an apocalyptic landscape that reflects our own deteriorating planet.
Valerianella affinis, 2008, Ink, acrylic and oil on canvas panel, 50 x 40 in.
For this exhibition, Kaoru Mansour altered her usual process of taking plants from nature and purchased artificial ones instead. In a practice that negotiates between abstraction and representation, Mansourâ€™s mixed-media paintings utilize recognizable plant fragments and embellish them with layers of mark-making until they become new, otherworldly forms.
Nature: Death #101, 2008, Mixed media on canvas, 60 x 44 in.
Melvin Martinez employs a thick, impasto style to create mixed media paintings that are truly gardens of excess. Applying his oils and acrylics with pastry bags and adding generous helpings of found objects such as feathers, fake flowers, bows and mirrors, Martinez generates a playful and gaudy aesthetic that nonetheless recalls the delicacy of nature.
Excess Garden, 2007, Mixed media on canvas, 7 x 7 ft.
CRISTINA LEI RODRIGUEZ
Cristina Lei Rodriguezâ€™s eccentric sculptural constructions, in which banal plant forms contort and transform into glittery plastic creations, evoke a post-nuclear landscape in which the beautiful becomes monstrous, and the monstrous becomes commonplace.
Flowering Moss with Rock, 2005, Plastic, foam, epoxy, Plexiglas and selected objects, 31 x 36 x 36 in.
“How to make something slow about something as fast as a moment is my obsession,” says Andrew Taylor about his work. Relying on a close observation of nature, Taylor’s beautiful, meditative paintings are a celebration of what is still possible in this medium, even as the environment around him changes by the second.
Outside; Night 8, 2008, Oil on canvas, 72 x 72 in.
Inspired by a unique combination of history painting, still life, and Pop Art, Timothy Tompkins takes images from the media and renders them in a high-gloss, limited-color palette. The dramatic effect serves to highlight our current obsession with material culture and sensationalism, as contrasted with the more classical themes of human struggle and triumph.
10.24.07 After Turner, 2008, Commercial enamel on aluminum, 50 x 80 in.
ARTIST BIOGRAPHIES Ori Gersht
Born in Israel, lives and works in London
Lives and works in San Juan, Puerto Rico
EDUCATION BA Photography, Film & Video, University of Westminster, London MA Photography, Royal College of Art, London
EDUCATION BFA Plastic Arts School of San Juan, Puerto Rico
SELECTED EXHIBITIONS 2008 Time Folds, Angles Gallery, Santa Monica, CA 2007 Time After Time, Mummery + Schnelle, London 2006 The Clearing, Angles Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Lives and works in Santa Barbara, CA EDUCATION BFA Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA MFA University of California Santa Barbara, CA SELECTED EXHIBITIONS 2008 Gone, Nathan Larramendy Gallery, Ojai, CA 2006 Trans-Ethnic, Nathan Larramendy Gallery, Ojai, CA 2004 Reading Faces, Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Born in Japan, lives and works in Los Angeles, CA EDUCATION BFA Otis Art Institute SELECTED EXHIBITIONS 2008 Recent Work, g2 Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ 2006 Recent Work, LMan Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 2005 Recent Work, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
SELECTED EXHIBITIONS 2007 Yvon Lambert, New York, NY 2006 Group show, Yvon Lambert, New York, NY 2005 Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico
Cristina Lei Rodriguez Lives and works in Miami, FL
SELECTED EXHIBITIONS 2007 Team Gallery, New York, NY 2006 Endless Autumn, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, FL 2005 Cristina Lei Rodriguez: New Works, Rocket Projects, Miami, FL
Born in Australia, lives and works in Los Angeles, CA EDUCATION BFA The Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne SELECTED EXHIBITIONS 2007 Inside/Outside, Tim Olsen Gallery, Sydney 2005 El Contento, Crossley & Scott, Melbourne 2004 Paintings 2003, Crossley & Scott, Melbourne
Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA EDUCATION BFA Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, CA SELECTED EXHIBITIONS 2007 Left Overs, Susanne Vielmetter L.A. Projects, Los Angeles, CA 2006 Left Overs, Studio La Citta, Verona, Italy 2005 Manifest Destiny, DCKT Contemporary, New York, NY