In this exhibition of professionals, skilled and experienced painters are telling us stories in the visual language that we have inherited, rather struggled to preserve, and there is great pleasure to be found amongst these treasures. The Art Renewal Center’s, 12th International Salon is one of the most prestigious exhibitions of Post Contemporary painting and sculpture in the world.
The high degree of achievement which we see in this collection of pictures is remarkable. The renaissance of the 21st Century is underway and there is brilliance afoot! The show opened on May 13th at the Salmagundi Club in New York City and runs until the 1st of June before traveling to MEAM, the European Museum of Modern Art, in Barcelona later this year.
The Art Renewal Center (ARC) was among the first organizations whose aim was to preserve and actively promote an aesthetic that was missing from the pluralistic art dialog. Founded in 2000 ARC was the first organization to give us a list of accredited schools, ateliers, and artists who are striving to create paintings that can lead us toward a deeper understanding and appreciation for the life we have here on earth.
These creative individuals have done their studying, put in the studio time and are now providing a much needed cultural nourishment. Our ability to tell stories with a visual language is becoming more and more developed and the question of where all of this skill is taking us becomes an increasingly interesting one. The stories being told now are more human and empathetic, more accessible than the ones that stand as examples of Post Modernism.
ARC’s very informative and easy to use website lists the categories of their annual competition in basically the same order as the hierarchy of genres that were based on 16th Century Italian ideas and which were objectively agreed upon right up until the 20th Century, giving more weight or importance to the multi figured work than to still life or landscape painting. A classic statement of the theory, accepted during this time was, ”A painter who only does portraits still does not have the highest perfection of his art, and cannot expect the honor due to the most skilled. For that he must pass from representing a single figure to several together; history and myth must be depicted; great events must be represented as by historians, or like the poets, subjects that will please, and climbing still higher, he must have the skill to cover under the veil of myth the virtues of great men in allegories, and the mysteries they reveal".
As if learning to draw and paint is not enough, that last bit is a real challenge!
Has the resurrection of pre-modernist techniques brought with it a similar hierarchy of values? Similar, yes, but is it the same? Should it be? What is needed to move our civilization in a more holistic direction?
These two paintings by Childs and Larson respectively, would fall into the Genre Paintings category in the 18th Century hierarchy of values. Paintings of everyday life are important. I recognize both of these scenes and breathe deeper in their calmness. They allow me to relax, and if anything is valuable it is such precious moments of comfort.
It is as if the “lower” genres give support, like the base of a pyramid for those who strive toward the apex. The zeitgeist shifting allegorical masterwork is a rarity built on momentum as much as vision and ability. The individual stones cannot but at best glimpse the beauty and perfection of what is being constructed. In this case, a Post Contemporary Paradigm.
There is clearly merit in doing something well, in creating a thing of beauty simply for the sake of beauty but for the artists who really want to talk about something as complex as cultural change the language becomes both more sophisticated and poetic. The thread of the eternal quality is woven into the fabric of what is being done here. Many of the paintings entered in the ARC competition feature something from centuries past as a way of bringing it forward into the conversation. The idea that we can take the best from the past and create a better story for ourselves in the future is a paramount thought, and a sharp break from post modern notions.
There is a feeling of dignity being communicated here. A sense of inner strength and fortitude of purpose. In concert with the skill set we are seeing here the results are elevating.
“Communication can only occur if the language of the speaker is understood by those who are listening. An absolute necessity for communication is that the language employed has vocabulary and grammar shared by speaker and listener or by writer and reader and therefore logically by painter and viewer.” -Fred Ross, from his keynote speech at TRAC2015.
In these paintings it is not just a story being told. We are also, under the veil of myth, receiving virtues and mysteries.
Robert Liberace is a very lyrical painter with a strong dialect and dramatic flare. His painting 5th Circle won 1st prize in the Imaginative Realism Category of the ARC competition and tells a story that we all hope is never our own to tell. In the event of chaos, perhaps an attack, we must now rely upon our own strength and cunning. This rower’s reality becomes our metaphor. It is brilliant and empowering. However, as brilliant as it is, it is a single individual. It does not match Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, but rows us powerfully in the direction of such epic painting.
Jing An’s painting won second place in the Imaginative Realism Category. One of the wonderful things about story telling, is that you may not “get it” for years, but the pure execution of it stays with you, echoes until you understand.
Best of Show was awarded to Tenaya Sims for the painting Semillas. Sims writes of the painting on the ARC website, “ I began with a vision in mind that I presumed simply needed extraction to the canvas. However, like trying to translate a dream, the moment pencil hit paper, the friction began.” Painting this way is not as easy as it seems, even to those that know how to do it.
The stories that we need to hear echo our own fears, and give us the comfort that we are not alone, and if we are, we are strong enough to hold out until we find shelter from the storm. You can be a part of the story of how realist painting was saved by going and seeing this incredible exhibition! You will be glad you did.
The12th International ARC Salon Exhibition opened on May 13th and can be seen at the Salmagundi Club in New York until June 1, 2017. It will then travel to Barcelona, Spain where it will be on view again from Sept. 22 until Nov. 27, 2017 at MEAM,The European Museum of Modern Art.
For a complete listing of award winners and finalists visit the ARC Salon website.