Eckert Fine Art is pleased to present Eric Forstmann – Still Workings, a solo presentation of artist Eric Forstmann’s latest paintings. The opening event with the artist will be held from 4-7pm on Saturday, October 14 at 12 Old Barn Road in Kent, Connecticut. The exhibition will continue through November 26, 2017. This is the artist’s 15th solo exhibition with the gallery.
This exhibition is distinguished by a notable change of venue for the artist. A native of Northwest Connecticut, Forstmann has for years focused on the splendor of the local terrain and the characteristics of quintessential New England interior, bric-à-brac, and curio. Of late though, the artist has been working exclusively from a new studio in the revitalizing downtown scene of Torrington, Connecticut. With a studio perched to overlook the main intersection, we see new indicators through Forstmann’s work that change is underway.
As a young person in the late 1960s, Forstmann recalls coming to Torrington for the mundane and relatively colorless activities of finding a new pair of shoes or slacks. It was the antithesis of exerting creative energy. Today, the artist ironically finds himself back there with a completely renewed purpose, to occupy one of many new artist studios found above the recently launched Five Points Gallery on Water Street. Still Workings is almost completely produced in either No. 5 or No. 21 Water Street, and meditates heavily on what once was, and what shall become of the area.
As artists are classically the pioneers of gentrification, we need to look no further than recent articles by Vanity Fair and the like pitching Litchfield County as the exciting go-to retreat for New York City finance, art, and fashion types. In contrast, this excitement is a long time coming for reasons obvious to anyone familiar with the past 40 years in the area, especially Torrington and its loss of industry. Forstmann honors these years of perseverance and grit by creating a new body of work that captures the current vacancy of the remaining rooms in his building as they await their renewed purpose.
Of note is Forstmann’s new oil painting Oddfellows Ballroom, 2017. Built in 1916, this grandiose space staged the extracurricular activities of the bourgeoisie, but has for years been put on perpetual hold. Seated unbeknownst to many, numerous floors above the intersection atop a building on Water Street, Forstmann has meticulously painted the ghostly space - floorboards and all - that once saw regular heights of action. One may recall the famous Impressionist painting Les Raboteurs de Parquet (The Floor Scrapers) by Gustave Caillebotte. Painted in 1875, light pours across the floor from the window in the background as three laborers manually scrape the varnish away from the floorboards, not afforded the luxury of yet-to-be invented power tools to expedite the process. Referencing Caillebotte’s masterpiece, Forstmann does well to dutifully depict the light across the floor, but his environment is hollow - well beyond the industrious yesteryears - and we are left with not much more than two empty chairs and a few buckets.
Further to the rumination on the past, present, and future, Forstmann goes beyond his literal surroundings to comment on society’s lost art of looking. A group of paintings that depict blown-up versions of everyday objects has been prepared for Still Workings, and comments on the zooming in we do all day, as we “look into” images on our devices. Forstmann’s message warns us of the observational blight taking hold on our culture, and questions its implications. Painting large-scale still-lives of pears or radishes in hyper detail with dark backgrounds, Forstmann’s images reference the work of Raphaelle Peale, who is considered the first professional American still-life painter. An allegory for our phones and computers, Forstmann shares his sentiments that early Realist paintings are essentially “our first screens”.
Eric Forstmann studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston under the tutelage of Barnett Rubenstein and Henry Schwartz. In addition to his many solo exhibitions, he has had four one-man shows, all before the age of fifty, at the following institutions: The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio; The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri; The Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science in Evansville, Indiana; and the Mattatuck Museum of Waterbury, Connecticut. Slated for 2018, Forstmann has an upcoming solo exhibition to be held at the Brenau Galleries at Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia. Eric Forstmann’s work is proudly held in many public and private collections.