Steven Assael, New Paintings and Drawings
January 7 – February 26, 2005
Reception, Friday, January 7, 6:00-8:00pm

Forum Gallery
8069 Beverly Blvd. (at Crescent Heights Blvd.), Los Angeles, California 90046
Contact: Niccolò Brooker
Telephone: (323) 655-1550, Fax: (323) 655-1565
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
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Steven Assael, “Amber Ray”, 2002, oil on canvas, 96 x 50 inches.

Los Angeles, California.  Forum Gallery, Los Angeles, presents its first exhibition of the work of New York painter Steven Assael.  Titled New Paintings and Drawings the exhibition runs from January 8 through February 26, 2005 with an opening reception Friday evening, January 7, from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.  The exhibition includes 17 oil paintings and ten works on paper.

Born in New York in 1957, Steven Assael is one of America’s leading figurative artists.  Often addressing issues of the human condition, the artist has explored the basic themes of youth, family, life and death.  New Paintings and Drawings is both a continuation of and a departure from the artist’s recent work in which he depicted New York City clubbers who feel estranged by society and seek inward stability and control by donning extravagant panoply and affected Gothic appearances.

The current exhibition features the hauntingly beautiful painting Home Bound which presents a grouping of people who sequentially and fully comprise the horizontal picture plane.  These individuals are both undeniably familiar in their carnival-like theatricality and seemingly removed and distant, as though somehow associated, iconically and timelessly, with both past and present. Each intimates the style and subject matter of a great Old Master painter: the pregnant young woman to the right evokes a Vermeer, while the elderly man in the center recalls one of Rembrandt’s great self-portraits holding a staff, and the guitar playing lady to the far left an opera singer by American great Thomas Eakins.

The background sky in Home Bound is equally ambiguous, ether dawning or crepuscular, the facial expressions are enigmatic, and their location uncertain.  The very relationship of viewer to painting is also obscured by way of Assael’s masterful ability to create slightly larger-than-life figures who appear to advance beyond the picture plane, phantasmagorically penetrating the space beyond, as if leaving the past behind. Assael is not merely suggesting the end of Modernism in art, but an ambiguous and undefined “end”, simultaneously and individually sublimated by each respective figure.  

Assael’s poignant Untitled painting portrays a despondent young woman with a penetrating gaze, her hands limply crossed in front of her, while a male youth stands behind her holding a once-unfurled American flag.  An endless sea and purple sky spreads to infinity beyond both figures. Here, “end” is idealism past, youth lost, cause betrayed and self-empowerment defeated: hence, a memorial to how things used to be.

Steven Assael’s paintings and drawings are exquisitely rendered works of art, rich with iconography and social commentary which transcend the hackneyed and insipid.  His is a world of psychology and phenomenology, a poetic and ageless journey.

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