Steven Assael: Drawings
November 9 - December 21, 2007
Opening reception: Friday, November 9, 7-9 p.m.

8069 Beverly Blvd. (at Crescent Heights Blvd.), Los Angeles, California 90048
Contact: Niccolò Brooker/Marvella Muro
Telephone: (323) 655-1550, Fax: (323) 655-1565
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Steven Assael, Lilliana and Julie, 2007, graphite and black crayon on paper, 20 1/4 x 15 5/8 inches.

Los Angeles, California.  Forum Gallery, Los Angeles, presents a major exhibition of work by New York artist Steven Assael.  The exhibition is a stunning array of fifty-two drawings on paper in ink, crayon and wash whose exceptional technical quality and powerful emotive content clearly evidence why this contemporary figurative artist is considered exceptional in every way. The exhibition runs from November 9th through December 21st, 2007, with an opening reception Friday evening, November 9th, from 7-9:00 pm.

Assael favors two modes of presentation for his subjects: on the one hand, a frank nudity and on the other, elaborate costumes.  The dichotomy between these choices offers a clue to the power of Assael’s work.  In Julie Seated in 19th Century Dress, for instance, the subject sits cross-legged, weighed down by an ill fitting, heavily ornamented period dress. The knee socks she wears beneath her voluminous skirt belie the model’s discomfort, also reflected in her face. Thus, the costume worn does not act as a disguise but instead reveals a more essential aspect of the model’s inner life, allowing us to discern something fundamentally personal and human.  Assael allows us to see not just underneath the dress, but underneath the skin.

By contrast, the figure in Segu Standing confronts the viewer completely naked.  She does not look us in the eye; her gaze is cast down and we are allowed to take in the details of her form without fear of reproach.  The volume of her curly hair drapes across her shoulders like a shawl, cover her breasts, acting as a last layer of protection against our gaze.  The details of her musculature, of the blood we can almost see running through her veins, give the figure a weight and physicality that compels our gaze.  Though the model boldly faces us frontally, shoulders and hips squared to the viewer, there is a sense of lingering nervousness about her being so totally exposed.  Perhaps this is why she looks away from us: she wants us to see her, but is afraid of what we will see.

In both drawings the presence of the indefinable inner workings of the sitters, of the complex feelings of boldness and shyness, acceptance and reluctance, lend these works a rawness and power that can only come from a true exploration of what it means to be in your own skin. Whether they are placed in opposition to an incongruous costume, or given nothing but their own skin to come to terms with, Assael’s subjects reach out to us from the surface of the drawing, not just in their extraordinary detail, but with an emotional complexity and impact that strikes us as importantly, essentially human.

Recently the artist has had solo exhibitions at the Columbus, Ohio, Museum of Art, and Cress Gallery of Art, University of Tennessee in Chattanooga.  In 2000 North Carolina State University at Chapel Hill held a one-person Steven Assael exhibition and, in the prior year, the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington presented a retrospective exhibition of his work. Steven Assael’s work has also been exhibited at The Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, The New York Academy of Art, and The Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, New York. His work is represented in the public collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, The Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art & Design in Kansas City, The Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio, and Walt Disney Corporation, Burbank, California, amongst others.  Many important private collections throughout the country also include examples of his paintings and drawings.

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