UPCOMING EVENTS AND EXHIBITIONS
We are pleased to announce that we have reopened the newly renovated Grenning Gallery with a select group of works by one of our artists, Leo Mancini-Hresko. His beautiful interior called “Studio Hallway Light” graces the major newly built display wall. This is an elegant painting of the light and reflected light in the hallway outside of his studio. He is currently based in a high floor of a refurbished factory building outside of Boston. This is where he built his living/working studio upon returning from 11 years of study and teaching in Florence, Italy. In addition to several great summer scenes, we are especially interested in the charming snow scenes that he’s been painting lately. His muted palette and refined sense of color truly evoke winter. This series of autumn and winter compositions represent some of his finest plein air landscape paintings to date. There is also a very rich nocturne that was painted during his trip to Russia. Interestingly, we have selected Marc Dalessio’s small oil sketch of the same subject to hang right next to Leo’s impressive take on this very difficult subject. The subtle value shifts in the deep blue black night sky juxtaposes the bright lights reflecting off of the Volga River, making this a very strong painting. Another great image is “Down Easter” by Michael Kotasek which graces the cover of Dan’s paper last week, February 13th. Using the ancient technique of egg tempera, Kotasek has been selected several times now for the cover of Dan’s. His Wyeth like tones, layered on top of spartan yet emotional subjects makes Kotasek one of our most American painters. To round out the show we are also showing Joe Altwer’s apartment interior “Where We Rest Our Heads”, as well as “Leo’s Footsteps in the Snow”, which was painted with Leo on a trip to the Alps. We are also showing Travis Schlaht’s “Red Suspenders” and Sarah Lamb’s “Mussels and Pitcher” next to a John Morfis tool painting. This combination of paintings bring us right into the spirit of season, with Schlaht’s sensitive faced plaid wearing portrait, then Lamb’s delicious winter meal and finally Morfis’ almost sacred take on the antique hand tool of his grandfather.
Fenske’s solo show is rich in color and variety, as always, but with an added heft this year, as we unveil his largest painting to date. Inspired by a visit to Plastov's studio, a 20th century Russian artist in Moscow last September, Fenske painted the physical and emotional anchor to this show, the glorious figurative work “Florence, Olive Tree” which is 67 x 79 inches.This scale of the painting is rarely seen from these classically trained contemporary realists. Fenske was invited to Russia by the Minister of Culture to join notable Russian painters on a plein air painting trip. After researching his interest in the Russian painters, we have a newfound respect for Fenske's role in this Poetic Realist movement.
Fenske is becoming a linchpin artist, reuniting the split yet parallel traditions that developed in impressionist and realist painting, starting with the Russian Revolution and not ending until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Having trained in the Bougie Studio, which is a direct descendent of Ives Gammel, and the Euro-American impressionist and realist movements, as well as a brief stint at the Florence Academy of Art, Fenske has spent the last several years actively researching and studying the Russian painting and sculpting traditions. Fenske’s bold choices of everyday subjects and rigorous focus on light effects in nature speak of the Russian influence, while his meticulous adherence to accurate drawing and appropriate values show his Euro-American influences. Whether it’s a vase of flowers, a nude on a bed, or a dramatic moonscape, we delight in his accurate yet unfettered expressionist brushstrokes.
Fenske’s interest in Russian painting was piqued by his visits to the Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) which is based in Minneapolis, MN, his home state. Filled with some of the finest paintings from the late 19th up through mid 20th century, this museum has set Fenske on an original path, which has exposed him to another family tree of artists that were largely undiscovered in our country until after the wall came down in 1989. At that time, Raymond E. Johnson, an art dealer in 19th and 20th century American Realist art, along with other experts armed with knowledge that Russia had upheld other classical arts, including dance, music, theatre and literature, went there to search for interesting paintings. Over the following 13 years he built a business and collection of the greatest, yet lesser known, painters from Russia. He founded the museum in 2002, and Fenske wandered in there shortly thereafter. This is where he first saw Plastov and the Tkachev brothers, who Fenske has been researching and looking at ever since.
Arkady Aleksandrovich Plastov (1893-1972), was considered one of the major Socialist Realist painters, but is best known for his painting “Spring” which is a purely humanist painting of a woman stepping out of her sauna to speak with a little girl (you can see it at tretyakovagallery.ru – search Plastov, there are only two in the museum). This work is famous because it visually captured a “thaw” in the dogma from the state, and it marks the point at which Russian painters started to paint more personal subjects. As one of the top students from the Moscow Art School, and protégé of Serov and Arkhipov, Plastov caught Fenske's eye with his large-scale figurative work, especially the scenes of village life, painted en plein air. Plastov was initially compelled to paint propaganda mostly, then as the 20th Century wore on, the Socialist Realists were permitted to paint more personal works. Fenske was drawn to these more personal paintings. He is fascinated by Plastov's ability to paint people and animals, inside and outside, under wide ranging light effects, all infused with a sense that the painter had intimate knowledge of his subjects. Toward this goal, Fenske has achieved a lot in this show. This exhibition is filled with paintings that sensitively and accurately reflect his every day life, ranging from intimate interiors, to portraits, to landscapes in and around his home, to a thoughtful and emotional major scale figurative painting created in his back yard. Bravo!