it was first popularized in the Middle Ages, oil painting has been regarded as
especially luxurious, enchanting, and capable of capturing the sensuous
qualities of skin. What better medium is there for revealing a body’s
desirability? Richard J
Demato Fine Arts
shows this age-old esteem to be worth all its centuries of merit
with “EDGE OF
,” a show of works by 16 painters.
of young couples are naturalistic, but experiment with color and body language
to convey his subjects’ complex emotions. In his photorealistic pictures, Wang
crops the top and bottom off of his sitters, depicting them from below the eyes
to the hip or knee, and weaves skeins of color over the picture plane. These
paintings resemble works by
, where the
relationship between a pair of sitters is suggested, but remains ambiguous.
and erotically charged portraits borrow from traditional French realists, such
, with luminous surfaces and solitary female protagonists. Her
2014 painting, Did the Harebell Loose Her Girdle,
is based on a poem by
Emily Dickinson. Wilson’s model stands pensively in a wallpapered room, the
atmospheric light keenly attended to. She is nude except for a feathered
headdress and translucent crinoline dress. Dickinson’s poem questioned the
morality of sexual liaisons, and Wilson’s desirable subject may be weighing the
cultural icons in their paintings. O’Hagan’s Figment
shows a girl
wearing ruby slippers sitting in a rustic doorway; her imploring gaze hopes for
adventure or fantasy. O’Hagan and Stein’s use of rich symbols such as Dorothy
from the Wizard of Oz
, or spiders, bouquets, and skulls in their other
paintings, resembles strategies used by
. Stein describes
as, “mythic imagination and elements that are at once personal and universal.”
As with those Surrealists
artists suggest magic is everywhere, if only we’re receptive to its signs.
All of these painters at Richard J
Demato Fine Arts experiment with the longstanding conventions of figuration.
Their contemporary approach both embraces and upends the influence of
photography by making images that imitate its precision—enhanced by lush
painterly surfaces and heightened by the imaginative liberties the artists take
with their subjects.