Thursday, March 3, 2011

"No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn", Jason Fondren @ Silver Meteor Gallery

I first saw this painting, titled "Shy Muse", by Jason Fondren, at a Square One event a few years ago. Several things caught my attention. The painting was very realistic, but not merely literal. It looked like it was drawn/painted from life, because it had the qualities of stereotaxic vision, not the monocular flatness of a camera. The figure was not idealized in the usual physical ways. The whole painting had a high skill/quality level. It had the hallmarks of Classical Realism. It also had the qualities of Japanese wabi-sabi, the higher-order beauty of the imperfect, the impermanent. The graceful state of flux that is being alive.

Jason is leaving Tampa for the Janus Collaborative School in Brooklyn, NYC. He explained to me that it's more of an Atelier, wherein one works on their own works in the same studio(s) as the three masters he will be mentored by. This show, "No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn" was his last in Tampa. It was held at the Silver Meteor Gallery, and curated by gallery owner, Michael A. Murphy.

This gives some idea of the gallery (multi-tasking) space, and shows earlier paintings by Fondren, which were done for the "Reclaiming our Heritage" group, which is no longer, of historical images of Tampa, based on photographs from the Burgert Brothers collection.

This painting, titled "Muse", is not a generic figure, but clearly a specific one, an individual. The background here gives the figure an epic or iconic quality, a strong gestalt and sense of order.

"Johnny", a portrait of movie icon Johnny Weismuller (of Tarzan fame), shows the actor in an introspective mood, and at the zenith of his physical powers. Very sensuous, his strength and androginy seem to be given equal weight.

Here is Jason Fondren (whose resemblance to that of the painter Velazquez in his self-portraits was not lost on me when I photographed him) next to his painting, "Femme X".
Note the stylized, dramatic pose, and exquisitely detailed emphasis on the strain on the body's musculature.

The Classical Realism movement is a return to Pre-Modernist ideas and values, incorporating elements of Academic and Impressionist techniques. I get the feeling that the real strength here does not derive from a mere fundamentalistic return to an earlier era, but a recontextualized and revitalized version of Classical Realism in today's world.

I want to take this opportunity to bid Jason a fond farewell, and to wish him the best with his art. Hopefully, we will be hearing from him in this space.

--- Luis

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