A major change of scenery has brought a dramatic shift of subject matter for painter Michael Klein, as is evident in his 20-painting solo show that opens with a reception on Saturday, December 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Maxwell Alexander Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. The artist, who often travels the world presenting painting workshops, will be in attendance.
In recent years, Klein, 38, and his wife moved first from Buenos Aires, where they’d lived for several years, to New York, and they have now relocated to Raleigh, NC. That’s where the artist first came to learn of and witness firsthand the wild mustangs that roam the shores of the northern Outer Banks islands. Now protected through nonprofit foundations, the steeds are descendants of horses believed to have been left there by shipwrecked Spanish or English explorers in the late 16th century.
All of which struck Klein as ideal inspiration for his classical approach to realist art. The artist trained, since the age of 19, in ateliers and workshops including those of New Hampshire master portraitist Richard Whitney, the Art Students League of New York, and Jacob Collins at his widely respected Water Street Atelier (now called the Grand Central Atelier). Klein has also been influenced by his intensive studies of art history, including 19th-century naturalist painters such as John Singer Sargent, Jules Bastien-Lepage, and Émile Friant. “In these works, I’m exploring a little bit of American history, and I’m using all my training to portray a single horse, or five or six horses, walking down the beach, in moonlight or in the morning, on a cloudy day or at sunset,” he says. “I love the variety.”
Klein expects to be showing about a dozen of these equine images, most of which are painted in oils on panel. There is also a generous selection of other subjects for which he is already well known: four or five of his widely admired floral still-life paintings—which in recent years gained Klein a large Instagram following—along with four figurative works that include a portrait of “a gentleman from the Apache reservation,” another of his wife, and a self-portrait.
“Twenty paintings is a pretty significant number for a solo show,” observes gallery director Beau Alexander. He considers Klein—who had a small show of his floral works at Maxwell Alexander’s former Culver City location in late 2015—more than worthy of such a major display. “Michael possesses a vast knowledge of art history, and while never forgetting the masters that have come before him, he is definitely making his own mark,” Alexander says. That impact, he thinks, will be all the greater as a result of the artist’s new subject matter: “I find it interesting to see his technical ability being translated to something new, while his brush strokes and technique haven’t changed. When an artist is unexpectedly inspired like this, you can see the interest and the passion in the finished works.”