CAPTURED Moments
American Art Collector|December 2020
Learning to Fly, by Spanish sculptors Coderch & Malavia, depicts a boy leaning forward, poised on tiptoe, confident that his dream of flying will be realized by his wings of corrugated cardboard, bamboo and rope that will carry him above the trees and the sea.
JOHN O'HERN
Ironically, it’s the sea into which Icarus fell when he ignored his father’s warning not to fly close to the sun because it would melt his wings of feathers and wax. Daedalus had designed the wings to escape the island of Crete where he and his son had been imprisoned by King Minos. Daedalus told Icarus to fly a middle route, away from the melting heat of the sun and the moisture of the sea, which would clog his wings. Icarus, thrilled by the sensation of flying, rose too close to the sun, the wax melted and he plunged to his death in the sea.

Coderch & Malavia’s intrepid potential airman is typical of their figures, depicted in a “captured moment.” He is full of youthful confidence that he will fly freely, escaping the restrictions of daily life. He knows the story of Icarus, but perhaps he has read the aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, who wrote, “I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things,” a sense of freedom even a young boy can feel.

In his enigmatic paintings, the Turkish artist Fatih Gurbuz explores the relationship of mind/body/spirit and nature/human/ animal. In Everything Will Be Beautiful, a young girl faces away from the viewer toward a halo that casts a blue light and her shadow on the ground. She stands between a bison and a hyena with doves flying above her head. It is an image of physical and mystical harmony. Gurbuz leaves us to read into the symbolism.

He explains, “My main objective is not to answer questions or impose them, but to make the audience ask questions and think.” He cites the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who “says that the main source of creation is nature and it encircles, feeds, and guides people. In this sense,” he continues, “for a person to understand nature is to understand his/her own boundaries in the universe. Thus, I build my compositions upon a nature-animal-human centered structure. The position of these three elements in the composition is independent of hierarchical arrangements.”

Nietzsche wrote, “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”

Mark Steven Greenfield, in the catalog to his exhibition Black Madonna, writes, “fear of the ‘other’ often devolves into mindless hatred. Yet sometimes the path to empathy lies in the visualization of one’s physical victimization—particularly when paired with a symbol that has come to be associated with universal love.”

Greenfield explores the enigmatic Black Madonnas that began appearing in medieval Europe—dismissed by some as having accumulated dirt over the centuries and seen by others as connected to pre-Christian myth and the physical roots of humanity. Greenfield paints Madonna and child images in a traditional style, but his figures are Black. He replaces the bucolic and innocuous backgrounds with fantasy scenes of retribution upon those who have oppressed Blacks throughout American history. In the background of Toppled, for instance, a monument to a Confederate general is toppled from its base, which contains a representation of the Confederate flag.

Greenfield says, “My work incorporates irony, humor, tragedy, pathos, history and a myriad of other tools to challenge long-held notions of race in a different way.”

In the pages of this special section, collectors will gain insights into figurative artwork being created today. The pieces reflect the artists’ surroundings and experiences and often delve into complex narratives that lead the viewers on their own paths.

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