19 Jul FIGURE | FORM
OCTOBER 3, 2019 – FEBRUARY 1, 2020
Grant Drumheller, Miriam Durkin, James Erickson, Saba Taj, Antoine Williams
Itinerary of Events
Opening reception: Thursday, October 3, 2019, 6 – 8p
Artist roundtable moderated by independent curator Jonell Logan: Friday, October 4, 2019, 10 – 11:15a
RSVP required: Ashley@eldergalleryclt.com
As a species we love to look upon ourselves. We are voyeurs- yet often in benevolent and nurturing ways. Figurative work, like landscape, has aims high and wide. It seeks to capture what we gaze upon, yet frequently brings in the protagonist or antagonist, the psychological or socio-political narrative, issues of identity or an in-depth exploration of the human anatomy. Today’s figurative artists create work that reflects a style perhaps less about gesture and more about who they are as they contemplate the figure. The work is about perspective. Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art celebrates this genre in our exhibition Figure | Form, a show representing various manifestations of figure into form with works by Grant Drumheller, Miriam Durkin, James Erickson, Saba Taj and Antoine Williams.
Grant Drumheller often paints the figure as a mass of humanity: crowds looking, or walking, or just comfortably existing. These images are frequently in urban spaces with shards of light and an affectionately omniscient perspective. Other works depict subjects Drumheller delights in painting: human figures in natural and urban spaces, his daughters and wife, and groupings of animals. Light and color unify these subjects for Drumheller, who defines the act of painting simply as way to draw with color. No matter how complicated the idea or powerful the unconscious obsession behind the work, all of it is ultimately secondary to the pursuit of the right color in the right space. New Hampshire-based Drumheller has been awarded a Fulbright-Hays Grant in Painting to Italy, and has received a Blanche Colman Award, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Miriam Durkin uses classical figure drawing skills to create contemporary compositions. From charcoal drawings to oil portraits to her recent simplified silhouette series, Durkin’s work reveals a depth of knowledge of human anatomy, and an intimate understanding of the aesthetic, philosophical techniques and principles of humanist realism. She is a meticulous artist who aims to draw and paint the human figure in the genre of acclaimed classical realists, but to also fully understand the complex skeletal structure of the body. That dedication is apparent in her paintings: her work is personal and on a human scale; it invites the viewer to stay and reflect and emote. Charlotte-based Durkin has trained with some of the most respected contemporary classical realists working today: Robert Liberace, Nelson Shanks, Stephen Early and the teachers at Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia.
James Erickson depicts the figure with a zestful intimacy, never too far away as he impressionistically captures his favorite protagonists in action: learning, running, jumping, resting. An active runner and observer, he is one of the few figurative artists who captures the many moments of life with a journalistic fervor, grounding it with a prolific but accurate style. Erickson’s paintings explore the dignity of the human figure and the poetry of the ordinary, and he finds inspirations from direct encounters with the people and places of his immediate surroundings. James has called the human being “the most magnificent thing you can see on earth.” Erickson exhibits his work throughout the east coast. He has instructed courses in Philadelphia through the Mural Arts Program, The Fleisher Art Memorial and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Erickson lives in Virginia and heads the Visual Arts Department at Woodbury Academy.
Saba Taj addresses her figure with intimacy but through the lens of gender, identity and othering. As an interdisciplinary artist pulling from many sources, her figures morph into hybrids with a predisposition for cultural survival – black, brown, part animal, with an inherited resilience adapted to get through the ills and graces of today. Heavily inspired by Islamic stories and speculative fiction, Taj uses mixed media practices to illustrate the liminalities of diasporic identity through the creation of hybridized femme-monsters. Taj remixes cultural references from her South Asian, American, Muslim, and queer identities, and explores themes of diaspora, inherited trauma and apocalypse. In addition to creating, Taj serves as Director of the Carrack Modern Art Gallery in Durham, North Carolina. She was a 2017 Southern Constellations Fellow, TedxDuke 2017 speaker, and has been featured in The Guardian, Huffington Post, and Durham Magazine.
Antoine Williams presents the figure as a mode of addressing the social distortion of the young black man. He creates mixed media assemblage installations, paintings and collages, which are an investigation of identity, semiotics and social structures. Heavily influenced by speculative science fiction, hip hop, and his rural working-class upbringing in Red Springs, North Carolina, Antoine has created his own mythology of hybrid creatures that exist between the boundaries of class and race. Williams is a recent resident of the McColl Center and an Assistant Professor of Art at Guilford College. His works have been shown in numerous museums, including the Mint Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) of Raleigh, and he has been awarded several prestigious grants, including from the Harpo Foundation and the Joan Mitchell Foundation.