Tony Scherman-New Portraits
The encaustic works of Tony Scherman call upon history not as static memory but as “an ongoing study through the ages.” The work currently featured at Winston Wächter includes characters of both historical and literary importance, such as Lincoln, Polonius and the ever popular Ophelia. These works are layered with more than just paint and wax, as Scherman exhibits a deep emotional sensitivity, focusing especially on the eyes of these prominent figures—true windows to the soul that invite the viewers to dive into the psyche of the characters. Though each figure is unique, the texture and modeling of the medium evokes a consistent mood when the collection of works is viewed together. Winston Wächter describes these pieces as “each reflecting dramatic isolated moments with backgrounds dissolving into shadow and darkness.” Scherman’s portraits are quiet depictions of figures we have come to esteem so highly in history and literature, who have attained the stature of myth—but, whether fictional or historical, these works allow us to seem them as human beings.
The sculptural work for the show Sated plays with the vocabulary of “vanitas.” These genre paintings were intended to remind viewers of mortality and often depicted decaying flowers or food, or the contrast of ripe beside rotten. Vanities were a much more subtle approach to this theme than the Renaissance’s memento mori—which used skulls and other deathly tropes more heavily. Dirk Staschke’s Sated is a modern take on this idea of “vanitas” as his “over the top arrangements of cake, pastries, fruit, and wild game explore the notion of gluttony and cultural excess.” These works are both confectionery masterpieces as well as facades—for when viewers circumambulate a piece, they discover the true emptiness of the works.
Vanities are typically associated with 16th and 17th century still-life paintings, and Staschke’s sculptural works have a Rococo, fantastical quality to them. Pieces like Confectional Façade are beautifully realistic, but at the same time one hopes that this sort of excess and exorbitant amount of decadent food stays far from reach. Staschke is not limited to the dream worlds of cakes and desserts, as is exhibited in Premonition. This work carries on the “vanitas” theme in a more physical and direct manner through the mortal world—a skinless human arm whose hand forms a perch for a passerine bird. Dirk Staschke’s works call upon art historical references as well as contemporary themes in society, making these Sated pieces quite an interesting collection.
Sated and New Portraits by Tony Scherman will be on display until May 17.