The new group exhibition, "Three Figures" now on display at the Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Culver City, features three intriguing takes on contemporary realist art. Through his portraits of young women Aaron Nagel seeks to take classical poses and reinvent them using high fashion make-up and lighting aesthetics. In his painting "Lady with a Sphinx" Nagel conjures up images of Leonardo da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine" with the pose of the model, the jewelry, and the placement of the animal (in this case a hairless cat). He modernizes the image by giving the sitter a smokey, club ready eye and a short bob haircut, her dress while classic in its decoration speaks to modern cuts and times. Overall the painting gives a sharp modern edge to a famous painting.
Through show wrapped streets and deathly pale courtesans Jeremy Mann gives us a world sapped of its color, but not its vitality. In his painting "Menagerie" Mann show his affection for John Singer Sargent by showing us a woman alabaster pale and photo real against a cluttered apartment of half-formed trinkets. Her clothes are a mix of East Village punk and twenties chanteuse all in black against a room depicted in sickly greens and grays. There is a sense of despair as well as dignity about the young woman that makes the viewer want to ask what brought her to such a state and place.
In his depiction of everyday scenes and people depicted with classical dignity Sean Cheetham shows us a sunlit world we can recognize as our own. In his painting "Racer 5" Cheetham shows us two men resting between jobs at a garage, with their sleeves of tattoos and hipster glasses these men could be from a big city in America and the photo real execution makes the piece feel more like a documentary photograph than a painting. By lifting the angle of the image Cheetham gives what could have been a straight forward composition a noir like tension, that, along with the look of fearful surprise on the mens faces, makes us wonder what danger disturbed these mens revere.
Overall this exhibition showed the many different streams that contemporary realism has followed and the power that this style of art still exerts over us. "Three Figures" runs through July 12th.