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Manifesting the Individual in Painting and Sculpture

Disrupted Realism: Reimagining the Figure at the Stanek Gallery, Philadelphia

Martin Campos painting “Montana”
Martin Campos, “Montana,” 2020, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches

In Martin Campos’ painting Montaña fragmentary figures overlap and coalesce into an environment conjured from paint. Both engaging and frustrating the image seems provisional, suspended somewhere between the artist’s conflicting urges to create and destroy. Campos apparently knows the human figure well and could render it convincingly and completely if he wished to, but that is not what interests him. Instead, Campos disrupts his figures to serve his own expressive purposes:

“I love the tension of maintaining the semblance of a recognizable image with the expressive move, where I am at that precipice of destroying it.”

The urge contained in Campos’ approach—to reimagine the human figure in order to manifest fresh meanings—is shared by the group of artists featured in Disrupted Realism: Reimagining the Figure, which will be on view at the Stanek Gallery between July 2nd and August 14th. The show represents a remarkable conversation between the works of painters and sculptors who are interested in reorganizing reality and using fragments of life to symbolize emotional needs.

Stanka Kordic, “The Chapel,” 2021. Oil on linen mounted on panel, 45.5 x 54.5 inches

Stanka Kordic, who has built her reputation by working in a way similar to Campos—depicting figures that include improvised passages—began her painting The Chapel as a landscape. She expected to paint a “straight up” image describing the environment surrounding a new studio located in her husband’s childhood home. Then, as Kordic explains, her intentions changed: “As time went on and I moved throughout the house settling in, I noticed the lovely light in a basement nook and decided to incorporate that space on top of what I already had.” After eight months of work the end result is a kind of self-portrait that incorporates the artist’s feelings and reveries over time. The Chapel represents a new direction for Kordic, as it inserts her own presence into a field of imagery that evokes an aesthetic response to setting and place.

Jacqueline Boyd, “Shop and Plant in Flesh,” 2020, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches

Jacqueline Boyd’s Shop and Plant in Flesh reverses Kordic’s working order. It began with a figure that was subsumed by plant imagery in the course of its making. Starting with the figure—and all its literal implications—gave Boyd the entry point she needed to move towards a feeling of place, which is her true subject. During the process of painting Boyd lets her process of layering and obliterating generate metaphorical suggestions of memory. To put it another way, the figure is always there in her work as a memory to open up the imaginative and emotional responses of viewers. Boyd’s works offer a distinctive kind of visual pleasure, suggesting that anyone can join the artist in her reveries.

Katherine Stanek, “Becoming Variant #5,” 2021, concrete, steel and leather, 24 3/4 x 8 x 5 inches

A sculptor who feels a kinship with painters, Katherine Stanek has been bringing disruption to her works. In a recent series of six “Variants” she has included broken casts of features as a way of making sure that her model (or reference) does not become the subject of the piece. Stanek has found that breaking and recomposing generates emotional suggestions so that she is able to move towards a final image that feels right rather than simply looking right. As Stanek explains in a written statement, she also hopes to open up questions:

My work is emotionally inspired and viscerally created. I use destruction as a form of creation reordering the figure and bringing to question what is right and what feels right. What feelings does it conjure up in the viewer and why? I’m ok with raising more questions than answers.

Stanek’s process also conjures up a connection to the often fragmented antique works presented in museums, placing Stanek’s works (and intentions) into a longer timeline with more associations.

Rolf Jacobsen, “Naiads,” 2020, Wood and gesso, 11.8 x 11.8 x 6 inches

Working between sculpture and painting—using wood and gesso—Rolf Jacobsen has also been connecting to the past through mythology. His recent Naiads, named for the Classical nymphs who inhabited rivers and lakes, feels both weather-worn and new. Committed to art as a form of exploration, Jacobsen’s interest in hybridizing fragments is connected to the idea that art seems to be leading him to forms and conclusions that he was not expecting. His inclinatinon towards pleasing new forms—which he calls “golden accidents”—is related to his sense that each sculpture is alive in the process of its own making. Appealingly varied in both form and finish, Jacobsen’s sculptures radiate a feeling of enduring presence. Like the paintings of Martin Campos they show how an engaged aesthetic of creation and destruction can endow art with a sense of mystery and profundity.

Disrupted Realism: Reimagining the Figure

Jacqueline Boyd, Martin Campos, Stanka Kordic

The Stanek Gallery

Exhibition continues July 2 — August 14, 2021

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John Seed

John Seed

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John Seed is the author of “Disrupted Realism.” He has written for the HuffingtonPost, Hyperallergic, Arts of Asia & other fine publications. johnseed@gmail.com