Congratulations to Grant Redden for landing the cover of Western Art Collector magazine for October 2018. Be on the lookout for a show of his new paintings at our gallery this coming Spring 2019.
Natalie Featherston has been working on a series of paintings on and off for 15 years. It first began when the Trompe l’Oeil artist was inspired by her young niece’s crayon drawings and wanted to represent them through her own oil paintings. “I’m trying to keep the feeling of a child doing them,” says Featherston of the ongoing series called Young Artist Shows Promise. The paintings themselves look remarkably like crayon doodles and include subject matter like cowboys, horses, sheep and cowgirls playing the guitar. While originally inspired by the artwork of her niece—who is now an adult—the drawings are now sketched by Natalie herself. She traces over the sketches with Sharpie, colors them in with crayon, and then uses those as real-life references for her paintings.
Featherston will showcase new works in this series in an upcoming exhibition at Maxwell Alexander Gallery from October 6 to 27. Other paintings apart from this series will be displayed in the exhibition as well, including Trompe l’Oeil paintings of collages of animals in their natural habitats. “My new body of work has a strong Western theme, especially featuring animals. I love the wilderness and beauty of the American West; portraying the wildlife is a fun way for me to connect with that theme,” says Featherston.
Reflecting on her technique, Featherston says, “I love working in this genre because you share this inside joke with the viewer as they discover whether or not what they’re looking at is really three dimensional, or if it’s painted on canvas. Trompe l’Oeil naturally lends itself to humor and whimsy because of its artful deception, both of which are... elements I strive for in my work.”
The show will also feature a pair of paintings of rough-and-tumble cowgirls, guns drawn, contrasted with surrounding burlap and cut paper flowers.
“There’s plenty of darkness in the world,” says Featherston. “I like to make paintings that connect with lightness, humor and joy—Trompe l’Oeil is a great vehicle for that.”
Mian Situ prides himself on the variety of his interests in the Western world. “I like so many subjects,” he says. “Chinese-Americans, mountain men, Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, historical scenes...I love all of it.” For his newest show, opening September 8 at Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles, the accomplished painter will be laser focused on cowboys, the most iconic figures of the American West.
Situ, who’s originally from southern China, has been acquainted with the American cowboy nearly his whole life, even before he first lived in Canada and now the United States. “The cowboy was a legend even in China. We knew about them and were attracted to them, how they dressed, how they lived and how they acted,” the California-based painter says. “It was John Wayne really. And Tom Mix and all these actors that appeared on the posters. We didn’t see many of the movies, but we knew who they were from the magazines and the posters.”
The painter permanently settled in the United States in 1998, and since then he’s slowly absorbed the cowboy experience, including on location at ranches in the Southwest, as well as at rodeos where he’s seen roping and riding up close and at ferocious speeds and skill levels. The Maxwell Alexander show will feature Spring Time in the Rockies, which shows two riders roping a calf during a spring roundup as a majestic mountain range fills the background. In Ridge Riders, Situ paints two cowboys on a rocky butte with a vast mountainous background that seemingly envelopes the men in the landscape. While the new paintings often exemplify the cowboy experience, they also elevate another Western icon, the cowboy’s horse. “I want to show how important the horse was,” Situ adds. “They are magnificent animals, especially to paint.”
In Coffee at Dusk, a man prepares to call it a day as he sits next to a glowing campfire under fading light. The cowboy is certainly a central figure in the painting, but the horse commands more attention as it occupies more real estate and it leads the viewer deeper into the painting thanks to Situ’s stunning composition, which features an interesting diagonal posture of the horse as it stands on a slightly declining hill.
“For me, the challenge for that one was the color. Nighttime is such a romantic feeling that I wanted to capture it for the painting,” he says. “The lighting leads your eye in and lets you focus on the subject. The contrast also helps make the painting look more colorful. It’s interesting to play with light in these ways, but it’s difficult to capture with your models—the light is so hard to get right.”
Situ, whose works are in some of the most important Western collections in the country, recently won the coveted museum purchase award at the Prix de West in June. His show will be on view at Maxwell Alexander Gallery through September 29.
The Promise Land
When Jeremy Mann wrapped work on his first feature-length film earlier this year, he immedi- ately recognized the importance of his breakthrough in the medium. “...I will continue to film forever,” he says. “It’s a language which fills my soul with poetry.”
The film, The Conductor, a cerebral and at times surreal journey into an artistic dreamscape—think Lars von Trier or Nicolas Winding Refn, but shot with a painter’s sense of color and composition—allowed Mann to take a four-month hiatus from painting. That break from the easel directly inspired his newest works, on view beginning September 8 at Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles. “...I decided to approach the new paintings with an open air of exploration, drawing from my abstract expressionist background, using tried-and-true techniques I learned from my MFA research (i.e., making myself uncomfortable with the materials and techniques to open new windows in this stale, dusty house) and feeding from something I’ve been developing for a long time now, my darkroom prints of Polaroids from homemade cameras.”
Mann’s paintings—both his evocative figures and his shimmering cityscapes—have long featured unfinished edges, blocks of raw color and abstracted elements that sought to frame his subjects within an emotional veil of expression, but his new works are transcending even further into this shattering realm of color and form.
“You’re seeing the result of a hesitant mind getting closer to a self-invented promise land. I personally know that destroying and then rebuilding paintings stage after stage is not only thrilling after the fact, but also has the look, the feeling of history, melan- choly and memory that I am wanting in my art,” the California painter says. “I’m not there yet, usually it’s deadlines for shows which hinder this, and as you say, you can see it encroaching from the edges of the paintings and reluctant to appear near the focal areas. That’s just reluctance, but it’s like putting cars in space; the point isn’t to have a lot of cars floating in space, that’s useless, the point is to get better technology seeing if we can get such things into space. But people focus on the silly car floating around. So when looking at my paintings now, you could say those abstract expressionist marks and effects are areas of testing ground on final paintings, seeing how it works and reacts to the subject matter, the feeling I want, the mood, while at the same time, experimenting with new materials and techniques, building new tools and trying them out on paintings that I’m afraid to screw up. A big swirling cycle of invention, experimentation, confidence- building, assessment, and then back to invention, keeping the results I want, and perfecting them along the way.
New works include The Sound of Wilting Lilies, featuring a figure calmly sitting in a cascade of white and gray paint that holds her within a tender stillness, a reverence carved into the color. The painting was his first after The Conductor, the hiatus and the building of his photo darkroom. “I went big, knowing that’s what I want, and returned to my earliest years of painting, with a completely rendered underpainting, color toning and then final rendering...every damn leaf, blade of grass, hole in silk,” he says of the piece. “Days later, throw it on the floor and destroy with new tools and techniques, then bring it back to a new life. Almost an allegory for where I am in my life as an artist. I’m not sure that’s necessarily evident in the painting itself, but as every painting, every creation an artist makes, is just one baby step toward the place he wants to be—I feel like this was two baby steps.”
While the new paintings seem to be reaching further into the maelstrom than Mann’s previous works, they are still unequivocally Jeremy Mann paintings, ones that can be identified as his from across a room. “I always tell the story—usually starts at the bar, which is just for some humanism— but the point is that I broke myself away from what I was being taught, what I was seeing around me in the art world, and went off on my own with two important rules: gain wisdom and experiment. Mixing those two goals, an artist will constantly evolve from pushing them-selves to find new ways of saying what they want to say, and then being aware of the effects with the wisdom to decide and choose for yourself which ones you like and which ones you don’t. Then, just do the ones you like perfectly (that part has all the hard work in it). The great thing about this process is that I am making the judgement call, [without] confusion about ‘what sells,’ ‘will I get likes,’ ‘will other artists like this.’ Those ideas are poison, ridiculous to even enter the mind, and it makes me sick how prevalent they are becoming in artists of all stages. That is why you can identify my artwork sepa- rate from any other, infused with other inspirations, but evolved to be my own, and across any medium. Having the self- respect to be true to yourself, this is the fundamental reasoning and goal in every workshop I teach—to be you, not me. It’s already difficult to be me, it’s easy to be yourself.
American Art Collector Editor Josh Rose Curates Exhibition
Despite what we hear from the contemporary art world to the contrary, painting as a chosen medium for artists is alive and well in 2018. In fact, some would say, it has never looked stronger. When Beau Alexander asked me to curate a show for the Maxwell Alexander Gallery it gave me a moment to sit back, reflect on the work that comes across my desk every day and then plan an exhibition of work from what I feel is some of the best artists working today.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the artists I admire. This is a mere selection of work that I enjoy, respect, admire and value. The exhibition is titled simply Painting Now and will include work from Sergio Barrale,Jeffrey T. Larson, ER de Grey, Jessica Gordon, Hollis Dunlap, Matthew Bober, Maria Kreyn, David Gluck, Kate Stone, Adam Miller, Joel C. Jones, Jason Bard Yarmosky and Stephen Magsig. Painting Now will open at the Maxwell Alexander Gallery’s new downtown Los Angeles location on Pico Boulevard August 4 and hang for the remainder of the month.While all the work in the exhibition falls under the general guise of “realism,” the work ranges from the almost photorealistic urban scenes of Magsig to classical realism from the likes of Larson and Gluck to the more expressionist style of Balkan and Dunlap.
Michael Bergt teaches workshops around the world on his famous egg tempera technique. He was recently chosen as one of only eight artists to represent the United States in the BP Portrait Award in London. The award is the most prestigious portrait painting competition in the world. “I’ve always been fascinated with the figure beautifully rendered and by pattern and decoration,” says Bergt. “In my new work, I focus on these two interests: my figure studies are given a context within the designs found in erotic Japanese ‘Shunga’ prints, Persian miniatures and the pattern traditions of Eastern art: realism and pattern/Eastern and Western aesthetics.”
To view the full exhibition, click here.
Mark Maggiori: Lightning Strike
Courtesy of Southwest Art July 16, 2018
by Norman Klopas
Two bone-tired young cowboys descend a cactus-studded slope toward an iconic western landscape of red-rock pinnacles and winding canyons. They are not so much riding their horses as being patiently borne by them. Massive storm clouds billow behind them, threatening a downpour that may arrive before the men reach their destination.
This majestic 5-foot-wide painting by Mark Maggiori, titled WEST SIDE OF THE RIO GRANDE, so impressed the judges at this year’s Masters of the American West show at the Autry Museum that it received the Don B. Huntley Spirit of the West Award as the most outstanding work in cowboy subject matter. Despite the acclaim Maggiori has been earning recently, that recognition was surprising for multiple reasons: Not only was it the artist’s Autry debut, but he is also a relative newcomer to American western subjects. The 41-year-old is a Frenchman who, until a moment of revelation and a leap of faith less than five years ago, had never considered painting cowboys.
“I took a chance back then,” says Maggiori. “This was something I had to do.”
Maggiori’s background may not have clearly predicted his future calling or phenomenal success. But it’s possible nonetheless to trace subtle indicators of the painter he is today.
“I guess I was pretty good at drawing at a young age,” he reflects. “When my mother picked me up my first day of kindergarten, the teacher had put my drawing on the classroom wall. I don’t remember what it was, but the teacher told my mom I was very good.” That classroom was in his hometown of Fontainebleau, southeast of Paris, where Maggiori grew up as the middle of three
children of Robert, a philosophy professor and author, and Helen, who taught French, Latin, and Greek. Early in his school years, he enjoyed drawing at home, filling sketchbooks with pictures of robots and spaceships. His parents, however, “wanted me to have a real job,” urging him toward more academic pursuits.
“But I wasn’t really good at school,” Maggiori continues, laughingly explaining that his “monomaniacal” nature led to obsessions first with playing soccer, starting at the age of 7, and then, by his mid-teens, with skateboarding. That pursuit, in turn, fostered a fascination with America, particularly the skateboarding culture of Los Angeles.
During the summer of his 15th year, Maggiori gained his first up-close-and-personal experience of America when his uncle Claude, a successful magazine and newspaper art director, took him and Mark’s 15-year-old cousin Leon on a summer road trip from New York to San Francisco, with stops along the way at western landmarks. “That month changed my life,” he says, “implanting America in my brain.”
When the time came for college, however, young Mark still wasn’t sure of his goals. He enrolled in some history classes at the Sorbonne but dropped them within a month. By then, he had picked up the guitar, “and I just wanted to make music with my friends and hang out with girls,” he says. Finally, in 1997, his uncle convinced him to try classes at the Academie Julian, a venerable private art school in Paris. “That was life-changing for me,” Maggiori recalls. “All of a sudden, my world opened to so many options and possibilities.”
Now a committed student, he stayed in art school for the full four-year course. Along the way he gained experience in animation, interning at the Paris studios of Disney, where he was involved in the 1999 film Tarzan. “I had dreadlocks at the time, and so did Tarzan, so the main animator used me as a model to see how the dreadlocks moved,” he says.
Upon graduation, Disney offered him a job at its California headquarters. By then, however, another passion had, quite literally, taken center stage. In 1997, Maggiori and his friends had formed a band called Pleymo, writing and performing “numetal,” combining heavy metal with other genres including hip-hop and grunge. After releasing their first album in 1999, they signed with Sony Music in 2000. By the time their second of four albums came out in 2002, they had begun playing at festivals across Europe and Japan, with Maggiori as lead vocalist. At the same time, he had also begun a compatible career directing music videos. So, he says, “the idea of being stuck in an animation studio somewhere in Burbank wasn’t appealing to me anymore.”
Eventually, the Pleymo years ended, with the band going on hiatus in 2007. (This summer, however, they’ve reunited for a 20th-anniversary tour in Europe.) Maggiori continued to direct music videos, while exploring opportunities to helm documentaries and feature films. In 2011, he moved to Los Angeles, where he met and fell in love with multimedia artist and creative director Petecia Le Fawnhawk, whom he married in 2012. And he developed a particular interest in rural America. “Every time I had a little money,” he says, “I’d go somewhere like Texas or Louisiana and take photos of Americana,” he says. “And that’s how I discovered rodeos.”
That interest led him, in late 2013, to take photos at the International Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. His father-in-law suggested he check out the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum while he was there. So Maggiori did, and his first encounter with its collection of historic and contemporary western art, much of it produced by participants in its annual Prix de West Invitational, was revelatory. “It was like I was struck by lightning—the storytelling, the American myth, the lighting, the clothing, everything about the cowboys in those paintings!” he remembers. He left with one laser-focused goal: “This is something I want to do.”
Back home, he began researching the market, which included reading Southwest Art. “I realized there was a whole western art scene. I wanted to be part of it.” So, he says, “I took a big step into unknown territory.” He and Petecia moved to her mother’s house in Kingman, AZ, and, with the same kind of monomaniacal dedication he’d always shown, Maggiori began painting in a backyard shack.
Seeking to jumpstart his new career, he posted his early efforts on Instagram, and his following boomed (today it exceeds 65,000). That quickly led to a connection with successful western artist Logan Maxwell Hagege, who invited Maggiori to meet at the respected Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles, directed and owned by his brother, Beau Alexander. “I put simple wood frames on four of my paintings, loaded them in my car, and drove from Kingman to LA,” Maggiori remembers.
“Logan and Beau welcomed me, we talked, and Beau put my paintings on the wall for 10 minutes.” And then, to Maggiori’s astonishment, Alexander bought all four works. “Soon after that,” he adds, “I heard that Bruno Mars had bought one of those paintings.” Another top western gallery, Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, signed him on a few months later. By October 2015, a painting by Maggiori landed on the cover of Southwest Art.
His successes continued mounting quickly: the Patron’s Choice Award in his first big event, the 2016 Night of Artists show at the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio; the Sam Houston Award for Painting at the same show the following year; and now, this year, his major recognition at the Autry.
These days Maggiori immerses himself in a field and subject matter that feel as if they’ve chosen him. While painting, he incessantly listens to audiobooks about the West. “I’m actually catching up big-time with American history, and the more I listen, the more I get ideas,” he says. Meanwhile, he continues to travel the West, gathering landscape photos and often meeting up with other artists for organized photo sessions with Indians wearing authentic garb.
Back in his studio, he says, “I go through my photos and start sketching.” His experience as a director and animator has made him especially adept with Photoshop, which he uses to refine his designs before heading to the canvas. Using a pencil or charcoal, he’ll quickly transcribe the composition. “And then I start painting, with most works taking two to three weeks to completion, including drying time,” he adds. Maggiori pays particular attention to rendering his clouds, which have won him special praise for their luminous realism. “Like a chef usually doesn’t invite you into the kitchen, I don’t want to tell how I do it,” he laughs, revealing only that he uses “a little bristle brush” and spends “hours blending all the colors to make a cloud look smooth and fresh.”
That attention to detail reached new heights in another work Maggiori exhibited at this year’s Autry show, THE CROSSING. Depicting a wagon train fording a river in a mountain valley fringed by snowcapped peaks, the stirring scene tried the artist’s own seemingly boundless patience and focus. “After I finished the mountains, I had to put the whole bottom part aside for maybe two months,” he says. “Then, one morning, I told myself to just do it, step by step, like climbing a gigantic staircase. It took me maybe three weeks of long, hard, sweaty days and lots of coffee. But it was one of those epic paintings I want to do once in a while.”
His ultimate goal is to please and reward his ever-growing audience. “It’s encouraging for me to see the thousands of followers I have on Instagram now, who write to me every day. That’s amazing, and it makes me feel so good,” he reflects. He feels he best serves both himself and his fans by “never being boring, and never being bored. I always want to stay excited and to be able to put my excitement for the West into my paintings.”
For more work by Mark Maggiori, click here.
Eric Bowman endeavors to capture a sense of romance in his Western artwork. It’s not about historical accuracy or highly detailed portrayals of cowboys performing realistic duties; rather, it’s about depicting that heroic, iconic view of the cowboy that has grown in popular culture over the years-the John Wayne and Clint Eastwood figures. Bowman’s upcoming show at Maxwell Alexander Gallery, titled Storybook Cowboy, will be on display from Jun 2 to 30 and includes Western landscape paintings of “the adventurer cowboy-the ones little boys look up to,” says Bowman.
The primarily self-taught artist is dedicated to developing his individual style, explaining that the new Western art market has evolved into something that looks more closely at the telling of a story instead of a strict historical representation of a certain time period.” Even though my work is clearly representational art, I’m saying more with color, line drawing, brush-style artwork that with [specific details],” Bowman says. In more recent years, the conversation around the Western art market has taken on a broader acceptance of a more contemporary approach, he explains.
Echo Canyon, oil has probably the most heroic pose of those pieces. The horse and rider, cast in partial shadow from the canyon behind them, are set in the foreground, putting them at the center of the viewer’s attention. In Green Mountain, that storybook feeling comes from the grand, epic mountain behind him, Bowman says, while Night Watch features a rising moon in dramatic light.
“The cowboy I grew up watching on TV or in the movies….there was always that dichotomy of good and evil, and the cowboy was always the good guy. As a kid, it was something I always looked up to,” Bowman says.
Having begun painting Western scenes in the past three or four years, Bowman says he hopes viewers can see a maturity in his work and subject matter. The California painters are a major source of inspiration, but that he aims to take that influence and blend it with his own voice and style. “There are different ways to say essentially the same things over and over and over,” Bowman adds. “In the end, it’s about expression without hindrance, allowing the character of the subject to “impact” the viewer in a positive and intriguing way.”
For more work by Bowman, click here.
A lone cowboy sits atop a hill overlooking the desert below. As he sits on his horse with his hat pulled down low, he watches the sun fall into the horizon and thinks about his day. There are no houses or cities in the distance. He has no companions with him. Man and horse sit alone in contemplation of the adventures ahead. Eric Bowman’s new body of work drops viewers into these quiet moments in the lives of American cowboys. “This is what I like best about the western genre,” Bowman says. “Hollywood has romanticized that vision of the cowboy, and I’ve always loved it.”
The artist presents 12 of his newest works in a solo show this month, titled Storybook Cowboy, at Maxwell Alexander Gallery. The show opens on Saturday, June 2, with an artist’s reception that evening. The early illustrators of the 1900s, who depicted the American West that soon grew into the expansive western genre of entertainment, influence Bowman’s style and subject matter. The artist is simultaneously paying homage to those artists while putting his own contemporary spin on the subject. To create his new pieces, Bowman worked with models and took photos of modern cowboys and ranch hands for reference. But he changes their clothing for a more historic feel in each piece. “It’s this fusion of contemporary working cowboys and the iconic images we associate with western heroes,” Bowman says. “Nothing would give you a sense of them being contemporary, but they’re still generic enough to belong to any era.”
Gallery director Beau Alexander says the work fits with the gallery’s overall aesthetic that combines old and new. “We respond to that contemporary edge, but Eric still has that masterful technique of someone who has been painting for a long time,” he says. “This show is an exclamation point in his career that will make people take notice of his skill. He won’t be flying under the radar much longer.”
While the artist recently began expanding his figurative oeuvre, his background in landscapes remains strong. “I still want the bulk of the scene to be comprised of the landscape, but these works meld the two genres together to make up that one romanticized, storybook scene,” he says. Nearly all of the pieces feature a solitary cowboy in the wilderness. There are no man-made structures to speak of in the hills around him. Bowman says the loneliness of that lifestyle is a key theme throughout the show. “It’s about the overall feeling you get when you see this cowboy alone, and what he might be feeling from his perspective,” Bowman says.
With most of the pieces set during sunrise or sunset, the artist plays with a unique juxtaposition between subject matter and lighting. “You can make this subject gritty and rough and hard, but with these colors, the cowboy becomes more restful and contemplative,” Bowman says. “With the time of day, the work signifies the end of an era when these men were revered and needed. But if a kid sees them, I want him to think of them as heroes, too.” —Mackenzie McCreary
For more work by Eric Bowman, click here.
G. Russell Case’s works often show the immensity of the land and sky towering over the desert. The size of his subjects is imposing and magnificent-terrifying when you think of your own place among the grandeur. And yet his monumental mountain cliffs and endless skies feel accessible, in large part to his careful inclusion of human figures, structures, or even just clusters of sheep that offer a visual scale that brings viewers into the painting without overwhelming them in the scenery.
“Adding those things helps with the vastness of the desert,” Case says from his Utah studio. “I’m drawn to these big, open places. And they really are quite big. The land just seems to go on for forever.”
Case, who has a new show opening at Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles on May 5, will be presenting as many as 10 new works, including pieces like Between a Rock and a Hard Spot and Vermilion Flats, both of which feature stunning rock formations and distant cliffs, as well as smaller more intimate scenes of sheep and Native American sheepherders in the foreground. “Growing up on and around Indian reservations, you really do get to watch the human-scale elements of the land as these people walk through. It gives you some insight into their daily routine, and their personal stories, as they walk through these landscapes that are ruthless and barren,” the artist says, adding that the ruthless elements of the land can be seen in his works. “You can see in the land the struggle for existence as sagebrush stretches for miles and miles and then out in desert there’s a dot that is a person’s home. It reminds me a lot of Edward hopper, who did these great street scenes in Maine and the shut down shops filled with lonely silence.”
The new show also displays Canyon de Chelly, Repetition in Clay and Autumn Canyon- works that are punctuated with dramatic shadows that caress cliff faces and deeply carved ravines. “Shadows and other dark areas are usually what the composition hangs on. I draw with the shadows, and those areas anchor the painting,” Case says. Shadows are the silent partner in the painting, We see color and light, but it’s those parts of any painting that inform the composition.”
Other works on view include Coming Rain and Spring at Tabletop. Both are colossal landscape scenes with riders trudging through the endless sagebrush amid the monuments of the desert.
For the show exhibition, click here.
This month Maxwell Alexander Gallery unveils as many as 10 new oil paintings by award-winning artist G. Russell Case, who turns his attention to the warm, desert canyons and sandstone spires of Canyon de Chelly and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments in northern Arizona. The gallery hosts an artist’s reception on Saturday, May 5, at 6 p.m.
“Russell captures these places in such a classic way,” says gallery director Beau Alexander. “He creates calming landscapes where you can feel the quiet of the desert in them, but he also conveys the vastness of the space and the height of the cliffs, often putting small figures in his paintings for scale.”
Over the millennia, exposure to the elements has produced rich colors throughout Canyon de Chelly and Vermilion Cliffs, and those colors tend to be even more pronounced in Case’s spare, uncluttered paintings, notes Alexander. “Russell really tries to stick to portraying only what the viewer needs to see. A lot of people compare him to Maynard Dixon and the simpler, modernist techniques of the early 1900s, and Russell falls right into line with that style.” Indeed, Case counts Dixon among his most significant influences, along with American masters Thomas Moran, Robert Henri, and George Bellows. “When I look at Dixon’s field studies on location, they are recorded one time—cleanly,” says Case. “The calligraphy of the recording isn’t manipulated. He had the courage to make a mark, leave it, and move on. That painterly quality gets me excited. I like as much freshness and direct painting as possible.”
In Spring at Tabletop, Case explores a verdant section of Vermilion Cliffs on the cusp of summertime, when the desert is just starting to explode with color, he says. Rather than portray every craggy crevice of the sandstone canyon in the scene, he instead focused on conveying the “horizontal movement” of the composition. The artist organized the painting into just a few parallel “bands” of scenery: a towering wall of clouds floats over the expansive, rose- tinged canyon and green mesa below, where three Navajo riders add “spots of color and shape” amid the sagebrush. “Usually, I’ll put figures in a painting as an afterthought to create visual interest, drama, impact, and scale,” says Case. “It lets us know the size of things, and it gives the work a finished quality, like the cherry on top.”
The artist spends days at a time sketching, photographing, and painting out in the field, where the scenic details are often overwhelmingly beautiful, and hence, difficult to pare down at his easel. Back at his studio in northern Utah, Case reviews his reference material with a renewed eye, looking for gripping “compositional themes” that supersede the minutiae of a scene. It might be as simple as a large, stormy sky or the “hot” desert cliffs at midday, he says. “When you’re out there, you’re so flooded with information that it’s hard to edit things—you think it’s all beautiful,” notes Case. “In my studio, I’ll create a small painting and then work it up to a big painting, editing things down. The abstract quality behind subject matter is what gets me excited—the big shapes and patterns. I’m continuing to move in a simplified direction—it’s a constant evolving toward how to say more with less, but better.” —Kim Agricola
For more work by G. Russell Case, click here.
Cesar Santos: Transposing the Past
Cuban painter Cesar Santos borrows freely from the past in a way that’s exciting and fresh. Like a pop quiz of art history, it rewards those who know their stuff—from Michelangelo and Katsushika Hokusai, to Rembrandt and Vermeer, to Keith Haring and Jackson Pollock. He calls this blending of art movements—Renaissance with street graffiti, cubism with contemporary realism, impressionism with Pop Art, printmaking with modern figurative—Syncretism, a word that he created to begin to capture his sampling from art history.
Santos will unveil new works that smash together art movements from around the world, as well as large works from a fresh series of paintings, at a new show opening April 14 at Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles. Santos, who is currently living in Miami, has not shown before on the West Coast and is thrilled at the opportunity to bring his unique pieces to a new audience in California. “As soon as I saw the incredible space, I knew I had to do something very special,” he says. “It inspired me to do these big paintings on linen, which will be a lot of fun to show.”
Works in the exhibition include Annunciation, which borrows heavily from Botticelli’s 15th-century The Annunciation and figures from Pablo Picasso four centuries later. “I loved this idea of Botticelli’s work with a cubist piece, and transforming it from this Renaissance work to this broken form of the cubist idea,” Santos says. “I’m always trying to integrate technique, and studying the masters to see how they composed different elements to create a unified vision. A lot of it is about edge control and values, and once you get it right you can combine things freely.”
In Across, Santos brings in the figure of Venus de Milo as she pushes herself out of a classical gilt frame, while behind her is a background that calls out to Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and 14th-century Italian painter Giotto. “Venus was my ideal beauty. So I took my model and painted the sculpture’s head as if it was model’s head,” he explains. “I wanted her playfully escaping from her past into the present, as if she was leaving her classical antiquity behind her.”
Santos also paints the recent $450 million auction record breaker, Salvator Mundi, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Santos’ painting, Salvator Artistis, has the Jesus figure holding a can of special paint made for boats. “It’s the most everlasting paint,” he says. “It’s made to withstand salt and crazy weather. It’s a playful element about the creation of art. Is the painting it’s based on really by da Vinci? It doesn’t matter because art is about the idea. In the background I put a Willem de Kooning, who was very against traditional art and suggested it be removed from museums.”
The Miami artist will also be showing his massive portraits that he has painted on loose pieces of gessoed linen. The paintings are large-scale renderings of sketchbook drawings. “I’m taking them out of the sketchbook and amplifying them onto the raw linen. I prepare the linen with a couple of coats of clear gesso. The paintings are meant to look unfinished because they’re sketchbook drawings made gigantic,” he says, adding that he’s even adding little notes and color samples to give it a more complete sketchbook feel. “What is a masterpiece? Is it something intimate from a sketchbook? Or is it something bigger and done with storytelling in mind? I wanted to ask these questions with these works.”
Courtesy of American Art Collector magazine. For more work by Cesar Santos, click HERE
Scott Burdick's painting “Sun, Sky, and Time,” which sold in our Monument Valley group exhibition December 2015, is featured on the cover of Southwest Art Magazine's April 2018 Issue.
To view more work by Scott Burdick, click here.
Jeremy Lipking showcases piece "Above Timberline" on the cover of Southwest Art Magazine.
For Maxwell Alexander Gallery's Five Year Anniversary, Southwest Art interviews owner and co-founder Beau Alexander on the gallery's continued success.
At the end of last year, Maxwell Alexander Gallery celebrated its fifth anniversary in a brand-new location in booming downtown Los Angeles. The gallery got its start in Culver City in 2012 as the brainchild of artist Logan Maxwell Hagege and his brother, Beau Alexander; it was designed to give a group of young, up-and-coming artists a place to show their work and thrive. Since then the gallery has become a magnet for respected artists and newly discovered talents alike—and it has hosted numerous sold-out shows. Alexander believes in constant experimentation in order to keep fine art interesting, especially to the new generation of collectors. He talked with us about the gallery’s successful philosophy.
How do you define the gallery’s tagline, “the new breed of fine art”? The “new breed of fine art” refers to a group of artists who are doing things a little differently. This new breed creates work that is superior in terms of technique and conception. We look at each artist we represent from this angle. Our goal is to only show the highest level of art. That way any collector can walk into our gallery and not have any choice but to choose top-quality art.
What has the gallery done differently that has contributed to its success? We have been very critical of the art we show. We keep a smaller group of artists to make sure we only show top-quality art. We tend to show work that uses some traditional techniques but with a modern twist, whether that be the subject matter or painting style. By curating themed group exhibits and solo shows with some of the most sought-after artists, we have gained a loyal following.
How many artists does Maxwell Alexander Gallery currently represent? We keep about 20 to 35 artists on our full-time roster. We also invite many artists to the gallery for various exhibits. Surprisingly, a lot of the artists we work with live in Los Angeles or the surrounding cities.
How has social media contributed to the gallery’s sales? We started using social media naturally because we used it in our personal lives. It connected directly with the younger collecting audience within the western art market. Many of the older galleries complain of not having any clients under 50 years old. The majority of our client base is younger, and social media has helped in reaching them. The art we show is the future of western art, and the younger generation sees that, as do seasoned collectors.
How does the gallery find new artists to represent? We rarely add a new artist to our gallery. Believe it or not, we discovered two of our most successful new artists on social media. Our most recent discovery is Brett Allen Johnson. But usually an artist’s recommendation of a fellow artist is how a relationship starts with the gallery.
What are you looking for in an artist’s body of work? The first thing we look for is technique. We aren’t interested in showing works that feature the ultra-traditional style of depicting cowboys and Indians. That’s the type of art people can see in a history book or on the walls of their grandparents’ home. We are more interested in the artist’s use of graphic shapes with bold colors and exceptional compositions. Simplicity is one of the most difficult things to pull off. For us, less is more.
What prompted the move from Culver City to downtown Los Angeles? Downtown Los Angeles is booming. Our entire neighborhood is under construction, with high-rises springing up monthly. Some of our most important clients work downtown, and some of the coolest buildings in Los Angeles are downtown. The space we now occupy is in a building that is more than 100 years old. We have 16-foot ceilings and an original hardwood floor. It is very contemporary with hints of the past—very similar to the art we show.
Which upcoming shows are you most excited about? In March we have a group show titled Cumulus [see page 36]. In May we have a solo exhibition with landscape artist G. Russell Case. I’ve seen a preview of some of the works, and he has re-
ally outdone himself. In June we will have a showcase with Eric Bowman and his new cowboy series that has been selling out over the last couple of years. —Interviewed by Bonnie Gangelhoff
Maxwell Alexander Gallery is hosting a group exhibition titled Cumulus starting March 9 and continuing through the month. The show highlights cloud- centric works featuring brand new paintings by Tony Abeyta, Eric Bowman, Scott Burdick, Glenn Dean, Phil Epp, Danny Galieote, Logan Maxwell Hagege, Bryan Haynes, Brett Allen Johnson, Michael Klein, Ed Mell, Eric Merrell, John Moyers, Terri Kelly Moyers, Dennis Ziemienski and others.
Bowman’s submission, Levels and Degrees, was inspired by the artist’s recent work done on a trip to southern Utah. “The monumental land formations there are really amazing in both size and shape, and support the focal subject and vertical design of the large clouds in this composition,” says Bowman. “They give it more of an overall large-scale, heroic feel. I also wanted to show the juxtaposition of land masses that are eons old, surrounded by vaporous entities that were just born that very morning.” Using textured layers of paint to forge out a depth and sense of scale, Bowman distills the sensation of wonder and awe when surrounded by such grand natural scenes. “I like to idealize the flow of the line, and clouds that allow just that. They come in all shapes and sizes, so I was able to not only create the scale and shape I wanted, but also build texture upon texture by allowing drying time in between painting sessions.”
Inspiration for Ziemienski’s piece Regarding the Trail came while exploring the majestic red rocks of northern Arizona and New Mexico. “What I found to be most exciting was the mysterious light and shadow of the rocks inspiring a balance with the dramatic upheaval of the clouds—a world where you can lose yourself,” the artist says. Evoking an almost surreal sense of place, the painting’s small subjects stroll beneath a massive cloud, which looms over the canyons with an opposing, yet awe-inspiring, presence
Tranquil and serene, Epp’s Hilltop Trio captures a restful moment between a small team of wild horses as they gaze at a distant horizon. “I have the privilege of living near large ranches that house large groups of horses,” says Epp. “Horses on a hilltop with a big sky backdrop is something that I personally observe on a weekly basis. I’m always inspired by the view and the painting subject.” Epp’s passion for sprawling sky scenes is particularly apparent in this recent work, with bright, vivid blues and buoyant whites dominating the landscape. “This painting is more about western scale, open space and distance than it is about horses,” he explains.
Burdick’s Grandma’s Clouds tells the story of a girl and her family from Shawnee, Oklahoma. Last year, the artist visited his painting’s subject, Serena, at her grandmother’s house to do a series of drawings of her and her relatives. Serena, who is half Choctaw and half Ponca, offered the opportunity to capture this scene. “In between drawing sessions, we would go outside on the ranch and take photographs, which are what I did this painting from when I got home to my North Carolina studio after the show.” From his references, Burdick set out to build a sense of communion between land and sky. “For this painting, I wanted to create a dynamic composition where Serena was an integrated part of the landscape and the clouds. My hope was that the varied angles in the grasses, plus the thick application of paint, would create a sense of movement in the scene. I wanted the abstract chaos of the grass to act as counterpoint to the refined painting of Serena’s face and the soft serenity of the sky. The fact that she was looking into the distance beyond the frame of the canvas hopefully creates a bit of mystery for the viewer to wonder about.”
The Cumulus group exhibition will open March 9 at Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles, California.
For more work from Cumulus, click here.
Maxwell Alexander Gallery's upcoming shows and recent move to Los Angeles from Culver City are discussed in this new interview with Western Art Collector.
American Art Collector interviews gallery director and owner Beau Alexander on Maxwell Alexander Gallery's direction as an industry leader.
Los Angeles, CA
Maxwell Alexander Gallery, March 10-31
We probably take them for granted more often than we should. This month, however, clouds receive a well-deserved tribute at Maxwell Alexander Gallery, where 12 leading western artists portray these billowing beauties of the sky in more than a dozen new paintings of the American West. Fittingly titled Cumulus, the exhibition opens on Saturday, March 10.
Devotees of historic western art might presume the show is a commemorative nod to early western landscape painters like Maynard Dixon (1875-1946), who frequently depicted massive, showstopping cloudscapes over low-lying horizons. But gallery owner Beau Alexander is quick to note that, while this group of contemporary painters may be influenced by such artists, it’s not the focus of the exhibition. “We’re really trying to look forward,” he says. “These artists are cutting their own path and doing something a little different.”
Among those portraying clouds in a new light are Eric Bowman, Scott Burdick, Phil Epp, Danny Galieote, and Michael Klein. The artists were invited to interpret the theme in any way—and any size—they saw fit, notes Alexander. The result is a diverse collection of cloud-infused scenes that range in tenor from whimsical to contemplative.
Bowman, a western native, has given the theme plenty of thought himself. “Clouds are such enigmatic elements in our landscape’s skies, constantly moving and shape-shifting, especially here in the West where they’ve helped define wide-open spaces like Montana’s Big Sky Country,” he says.
Clouds typically play a “backup role” in his landscape paintings, says the Oregon artist, but in his major work for the show, titled "Levels and Degrees" they take center stage. “I wanted to create some cloud iconography using various levels of depth, large-mass shapes, and temperature shifts to convey a larger-than-life impact,” he explains. Bowman strategically set his cloudscape over southern Utah’s ancient bluffs and canyons, both to support the composition’s vertical design and to create a “large-scale, heroic feel,” he says. “As a design feature, clouds can theoretically be shaped into any configuration imaginable, and in this case, hopefully they inspire our imagination about how large and legendary the West really is.”
Landscape artist Phil Epp has been painting clouds for years, and like Bowman, he thrills in their potentially endless configurations. In his cloud-dominant painting "Hilltop Trio", Epp portrays a triad of horses in the Kansas hills near his home. They are dwarfed, however, by a cobalt-blue sky with plump, unfurling clouds that fill nearly 80 percent of the picture plane. “In my imagery, it’s basically earth and sky, and clouds become the characters of the scene,” says Epp. “I don’t intend for them to be realistic. I make an effort to show vastness, space, and emptiness. Out West, you’ve got the ground ahead of you and the sky above you, and that’s about as basic and primal as it gets.”
If anyone can inspire us to glance skyward with a deeper appreciation for clouds, surely this group of artists can. “We all know what clouds look like,” notes Alexander, “but it’s not until master artists share their vision that our own vision opens up.” —Kim Agricola
To view the Cumulus exhibition, click here.
Logan Maxwell Hagege's painting " Pursuit of Happiness" is featured on the cover of February 2018's Western Art Collector Magazine. This painting will also be on display at the Autry Museum this February. Congrats to Hagege on another excellent piece.
To view more work by Logan Maxwell Hagege, click here.