Robert Lange, April 2008
Opening April 10, 5-8 pm
He doesn’t want to leave the paintings, that his experience was a process, an experience to be remembered
Charleston-based painter Robert Lange investigates his role as the creator in a series of 17 new works entitled The Joy of Painting. On view from April 1 thru April 30, 2008 at Robert Lange Studios, the show chronicles the painter’s role in the production of a painting.
At the modest age of 27, Lange was recently featured in New American Paintings and invited to join the Charleston Fine Art Dealers Association. He received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and is best known for creating bodies of work that investigate the intimate details of the art industry.
In October 2006, Lange’s acclaimed series, Behind Their Paintings, portrayed artists and their brushes in a personal yet identifying fashion. In last year’s series, The Exhibition, Lange continued this investigation by matching patrons with unexpected paintings, the result of which created alluring narratives. In The Joy of Painting, Lange is now giving the viewer a look at the practicable artist’s impact on their subject and through this, reminds the viewer that the artist is present in the painting.
Some humorous, some obvious, and some subtler but in each painting Lange has illustrated his active role in the creation process. For example, in one of the pieces for his April show titled, Live Well, Lange has depicted a nude figure holding a watering can. Within the watering can is a barely noticeable reflection of the artist taking the photograph.
“I am fascinated by how the realized presences of the painter changes the viewer’s experience,” says Lange. “I’ve only ever looked at paintings as a painter and therefore my experience is very different then most peoples. In this show I wanted to remind the viewer that still lives start as objects and chiaroscuro paintings start with a candle and a model, the rest the painter generates during the creation process.”
In Little Moment, one of the works from his upcoming show, Lange paints himself as a tiny artist working on a giant painting of a woman’s face. Due to the comparative scale of the artist and painting, Lange appears consumed by the sixty-foot model before him. This piece exhibits not only the artist’s direct role in painting the piece but also his humbled feeling towards capturing the quintessential essence of the subject.
“I truly love painting and perhaps more than anything else the reinvention that takes place every time I make a painting,” says Lange. “The interaction between the artist and the subject being painted, which is the physical painting itself, even more than the actual application of the paint or subject matter, is what I think captivates the viewer.”
The Joy of Painting series will hang at Robert Lange Studios at 151 East Bay St. from Tuesday, April 1 – Wednesday, April 30, 2008. The opening reception will be Friday, April 4, from 5:30-9:00 PM and the artist will attend.
VISUAL ARTS REVIEW | The Joy of Painting
Touch of Go(l)d: New paintings by Robert Lange evoke the sublime, art market
BY KEVIN MURPHY
Mystery is dead weight in the contemporary art world.
Artoholics want to know everything they can about a potential purchase: the artist’s background, the work’s inspiration, how long it took to complete. When a piece of art is purchased, the stories go with it. No wonder so many entrepreneurial Charleston artists have their own galleries.
Robert Lange Studios meets this demand. Artist and gallery owner Lange is often on premise, ready to answer questions about his work. Sometimes he can even be found painting. His current exhibition, The Joy of Painting, mirrors these trends by waggishly scrutinizing the role of the painter.
It also stages Lange’s successful, young, and thereby interesting appeal as a major theme, as the painter inhabits nearly every piece in the exhibit.
An artist who showcases himself risks ridicule. He must have thick skin, determination, and talent to back it up. Lange is a photo-realist painter. Therefore, his work has limited depth. To combat this, he toys, examines, and manipulates scale so the viewer is left to analyze the painting’s subject and role.
Many of the paintings show tiny objects: a knife, a woman, even a smaller painting, juxtaposed against broad canvases, which glance upon their diminutive counterparts with omnipotent eyes.
The work is technically superb if not a tad glossy, but merely tilt your head and you’ll see the brushstrokes that give authenticity to this exhibit.
These paintings are also about the act of painting.
They explain the link between a person who creates and his finished product. It’s no question Lange wants to sell. But you get the impression he doesn’t want to leave the paintings, that his experience was a process, an experience to be remembered.
Lange creates a memorable environment in “1 or the Other.” Planted between two larger faces — one ashy gray, the other alive and flush with brown pigment — Lange cuts a saintly figure as he uses his brush to transport color onto one face while the other remains in a period of stagnant decay.
The gestures and color represent a self-aggrandizing testament to the powers of creation. Furthermore the touch of God, or a higher power presence, is a consistent motif in Lange’s work. The combination of these elements proves insightful to his personal ambitions and ability.
Divine intervention returns in “Every-thing’s Connected” — a vibrant, idealistic, ephemeral painting capturing a couple overlooking a city’s horizon. The couple stands on a nearby hillside, unaware of a deity’s descending arms. The arms prepare to pour milk on their shoulders. Scale is manipulated once again, minimizing the couple and the city while enlarging the hillside and the holy arms that drop from the sky.
“The Cutting Edge” possesses menace and security. I couldn’t help imagining black clouds of smoke rising from a skyscraper as the couple clings to each other and watches from afar.
“The Cutting Edge” is a sharp rumination on self and the tools we use to dissect. A slim forearm rises into a clamped hand that holds a slender knife. The knife gleams and penetrates through the painting’s dark background, which allows us to focus on the reflection of the face of the person holding the knife.
The reflection is blurred, but still the eye of the beholder is keen, and you feel caught in an intimate examination, one that is searching for more participants. The clever placement of object in lieu of a person is another way Lange recalibrates his subjects.
The work in The Joy of Painting is bold and commendable; it largely avoids bathos by celebrating the profession with restraint and precision. However, when you visit the Robert Lange Studios, you won’t just look at paintings, you’ll encounter a business that makes, discusses, and markets art.
You might overhear phone calls that discuss Lange’s work or plans for new exhibits or who the next incoming artist will be. You might even encounter the painter himself, dutifully creating a new piece, right then and there.
This experience is interactive and to be expected. Besides, the public demands it. Personally, I prefer a little mystery. After all, the joy of painting is subjective, incomplete, and ultimately mysterious. Not a marketing tool that, like the subjects in a photo-realism painting, stays flat no matter the spin.