“Acceptance” Series on Exhibit at Lisa Harris Gallery

Lisa Harris Gallery presents
Mitchell Albala: “Acceptance”
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

Preview all works in the exhibition

Historical events depicted with an outward beauty that belies their disturbing content

fat-manLisa 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, a vision came to me: painting these subjects, but not in an explicit, grim manner. Instead, the opposite — “with an outward beauty that belies their disturbing content,” as I say in my exhibition statement.

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 that humanity pursues, 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.

Related Posts
Albala’s Acceptance Takes a “Dark Turn” and “Transcends Painterly Realism”
The Acceptance Series as Commentary on Human Consciousness

About Mitchell Albala

Mitchell Albala is the author of Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice (Watson-Guptill, 2009). Now in its fifth printing, it has sold almost 30,000 copies and is regarded as the "new classic of landscape." A respected teaching artist for more than 25 years, he currently teaches at Gage Academy of Art, Pacific Northwest Art School, artEast, and in 2015 Arte Umbria in Italy. He has also lectured at the Seattle Art Museum and written for International Artist and Artists & Illustrators magazines. He is represented by Lisa Harris Gallery. See his paintings at mitchalbala.com.