Seth Edenbaum – Marat (Works)
Seth Edenbaum – Marat Press Release
Thomas Erben Gallery is very pleased to present Seth Edenbaum’s fourth exhibition with the gallery. On display will be a series of paintings based on images of the French Revolutionary figure Jean Paul Marat. Though not interested in copying the painting by Jacques-Louis David, the artist sees the image from 1793 as representative of art in the modern world and the dilemmas which confront him as a painter.
In the unstable period in which the original work was made, opinions were dangerous, and an image of Marat had to satisfy every faction, had to be all things to all people: hero, victim, god, friend, and be them all simultaneously. David’s work was designed to be empty, while making it seem full of implications for every viewer, according to what each wished to see. Viewing the painting independently of it’s political function, it was, in its void and tragic formalism, the beginning of our idea of modern art.
The paintings in this show function in a similar way as paintings. They are well made arrangements of line, color and substance, synthesizing and employing different styles in various configurations: color, field, abstraction, figuration, monochrome, lyrical, mechanical, anti-painting, landscape… There is an attempt, like David, to use the figure of the dead man as a crossing of stylistic references and potential content, but with contrary touches of warmth and humor.
The image of “The Dead Marat”, a large 5′ x 11′ canvas, reads simultaneously as a levitating magician, its penciled-in elongated body alluding to an expansive landscape or interior space. Equally in “Figure with a Dog”, pencil marks within a diagonally placed silhouette, surrounded by a monochrome red field, suggest the emergence of another figure contradicting the main image. The ironic rendering of a little dog at the corpse’s feet is gently touching whereas two strategically placed seams to echo the materiality of the line drawings.
Also in the show are small blue, materially dense work and a pair of medium sized paintings, all depicting Marat’s head. The “Red Marat”s large undulating monochrome brush-strokes contrast in “Green Marat” with a multitude of painterly techniques ranging from a tender touch to a harsh materiality; a temperature varying from moments of lyrical abstraction to anti-painting or – alternately – from an image of a decaying face to one of Buddhist serenity.
The works originated in photographs the artist took of a friend, using a disposable panoramic camera with the subject laying on a table, wearing street clothes. In the show there is also one abstraction which, although not obviously like the other pieces, is involved in the same problems: how to give a sense of complexity and depth to painting without basing the work merely on style or content.
Edenbaum confronts this task with subtlety, purpose, wit, irony and skill producing some of the best recent paintings on view.