March 6 – March 30, 2014
Artist’s Reception: First Thursday March 6, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Artist’s Talk: Tuesday evening March 11, 6:30 – 7:30 pm
Historical events depicted with an outward beauty that belies their disturbing content
Lisa Harris Gallery presents Acceptance, a new collection of works by Mitchell Albala. For the first time, Albala’s atmospheric and semi-abstract landscapes depict subjects of historical significance— some of the greatest acts of barbarism and insanity of the 20th century. The artist will talk about his work in a special event on Tuesday evening, March 11, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm.
In Fat Man (right), a magnificent cloud rises against a cerulean background. It is the mushroom cloud over Nagasaki. In Apparition, we see a cathedral-like structure silhouetted against a glowing fog. It is the collapsed facade of the World Trade Center. Visual artists often render such charged subjects in a more explicit manner, or use grim and gray palettes. Instead, Albala has chosen to render these events with brilliant colors and an outward beauty that belies their disturbing content.
The artist says, “The paintings are intended to set up a contradiction in the viewer’s mind that asks them to reconcile these two opposites, to accept both simultaneously. The dichotomy expressed in each painting stands as a metaphor for how we must reconcile what is darkest in humanity and what is lightest or most beautiful.” The series is a commentary on human consciousness.
Why did I choose to pursue such an unusual theme in this series?
The idea is based on a vision I had about 10 years ago. I have been interested in 20th century history for some time, especially World War II. While looking at black-and-white archival images in history books, an idea came to me. What would it be like if these images were painted not in an explicit, grim manner, but “with an outward beauty that belies their disturbing content,” as I say in my exhibition statement. My first effort at this idea was in the piece December (left), based on a black-and white photo of Peal Harbor.
This idea seemed so compelling and interesting to me that it just wouldn’t go away. But I was reluctant to pursue it for concerns about how the paintings might be interpreted. Then, about two years ago I read a book about the atomic weapons tests of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Over 2000 atomic weapons tests since 1945! This was insanity in the truest sense of the word. My perception about all the insanity demonstrated by human behavior, and the apparent “acceptance” of it, became more obvious to me. Now my original idea seemed even more compelling.
The idea that melding beauty and horror in a painting would set up a contradiction in the viewer’s mind is something that became clearer as the series progressed.