Last weekend, March 6th, I made my way over the 7th Anniversary show over at the Shooting Gallery in SF. It has always been one of my favorite galleries to visit, as there is perfect lighting for photography and consistently good exhibitions. Opening that night was the latest solo show of Aaron Nagel entitled “Marks”. Right next door at the White Walls Gallery was also works from Kevin Cyr, Jessica Hess and upstairs at Gallery Three was new works by Jessica Whiteside.
As reception nights usually are at the Shooting Gallery, it was packed. I like to get there about a half hour early to snap some photos without having to disturb anyone. The doors however didn’t open until 7pm and by that time there was already people in there. I spent some time first looking at each painting, seeing the way that Aaron handles the oil paint, the details and how all of the pieces feel different than what you see online. I liked that Aaron didn’t over-render each painting. While they look hyper-realistic online, and from a few feet, you can see that while stepping closer many of the marks and highlights are loosely put on (as seen here). By not over-rendering the viewer’s eye mixes the colors of the oils those final steps, one of the benefits of this medium. Aaron is self taught, but one can clearly see that he understands not only the powers of oils, how to handle them, but also the proportions and weight of the human figure.
I was able to talk to Aaron for a bit, about his inspirations and when certain elements appeared in his work. The arrows are very much inspired by classical painting of martyrs such as St Sebastian, an icon that has been painted by Andrea Mantegna, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens and many more. One of the first things I noticed that Aaron has chosen to not add blood to any of the arrow wounds in his works. Many of the classical artists showed blood, some more than others, but like that Aaron left it out. It makes the work a bit more surreal. I have also heard a few people online complaining and the negative view the works have on women. I am not sure if these people are aware of the allegory behind the works, but there is no doubt blood would just exacerbate viewers that choose to not learn the story behind these works.
For an art history geek like myself, this show was a blast. Not only are the paintings created with an expert hand, but I can see references int he poses to artists such as Pontormo and even Michelangelo. Was that the intention? Probably not, but it is something I can see and what each viewer sees in art is what makes it so amazing. This show will be up until March 27th, and if you are a fan of art history, or simply love looking at figurative paintings that are as beautifully rendered as these are.