FAU exhibit in Boca spotlights figurative art
By Jonathan D. Marcus
An exhibition at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton spotlights the human figure in art.
"Figured Spaces: Selections from the John Morrissey Collection" at the Schmidt Center Gallery comprises 40 paintings, drawings and photographs from 12 female artists that examine human figures in their environmental context.
Robyn O'Neil is a Los Angeles area-based artist who specializes in large-scale pencil drawings. O'Neil uses the largest sheets of commercially available paper and the thinnest lead that can be used in a mechanical pencil, she said.
A large body of O'Neil's work deals with an imagined, apocalyptic world populated with men. These men are always depicted wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts, the comfortable clothing middle-American men would wear when they come from work, she said.
O'Neil's three exhibited pieces feature the men amid large, dark, ominous waves.
"It's supposed to look monstrous. The ocean is supposed to look like it's threatening these men's lives," she said.
New York City-based painter Hilary Harkness also creates fictional miniaturist fantasy worlds, but her paintings are populated only with women, said Karen Leader, an assistant professor of art history at FAU who helped select the exhibit's works, along with Rod Faulds, director of the University Galleries, which includes the Schmidt.
"Mother Lode," one of the exhibition's four richly detailed and colorful Harkness paintings, features scantily clad women auctioning off their DNA, Leader said.
The exhibition includes a significant number of nudes, including five untitled color photographs from Katy Grannan's Poughkeepsie Journal series. The series name derives from the publication in which Grannan solicited advertisements for the female subjects she photographed, said Morrissey, a West Palm Beach attorney and private art collector who provided all the work for the exhibition.
The close-cropped photos feature ordinary women in casual surroundings and are not intended to have erotic appeal, he said.
To maximize the viewing experience, visitors should consider the pieces in relationship to where they are placed in the gallery, Leader said.
For example, Loretta Lux's 2011 photograph of a young girl, "Hidden Rooms 2," hangs near a funhouse-type mirror to draw attention to a distorted aspect of the girl in the manipulated photograph, Leader said.
The exhibition also includes five oil on canvas paintings by New York City-based painter Natalie Frank.
"War," "Leftover Girls" and "Brothel" are at the rear of the gallery. "The End of Romance" and "The Dullness of Mere Obedience" hang high on a wall outside the gallery and can be easily viewed from nearby stairs. All are large and panoramic in scope.
Frank's work, especially her use of vivid colors, pays homage to notable painters of the past.
"I'm very interested in artists where there is a reference to the old masters in terms of painting style yet they incorporate contemporary imagery, and she does that," Morrissey said.
A symposium at Schmidt Center Gallery beginning at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 3 will feature experts discussing exhibition themes. The keynote lecture by Linda Nochlin, a New York University art historian, will be at 6:30 p.m. FAU is at 777 Glades Road.
Leader said the exhibit's pieces are thought-provoking.
"It's not entertainment. It's actually an act of education and learning," she said.
The exhibition runs through Feb. 11 but is closed through Jan. 3.