FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Susan Grissom, Gallery Director
New Painting Exhibitions by Serge Strosberg and Jo Hay:
Tales of the High Line and Rabbitude
Featured at the Lionheart Gallery
March 20, 2016, through May 1, 2016
February 17, 2016, Pound Ridge, New York: The Lionheart Gallery is pleased to announce two painting exhibitions opening on the first day of spring. Tales of the High Line showcases sensuous works by Serge Strosberg that observe the mysteries and characters of Lower West Side Manhattan and its iconic elevated park. Rabbitude, a collection of new lupine portraits by Jo Hay, captures the surprising quirks and personalities of rabbits through inventive brushwork and color. Tri-state area residents and visitors can see these two expressive shows at the Lionheart Gallery at 27 Westchester Avenue in Pound Ridge, New York, from March 20, 2016, through May 1, 2016. The exhibitions will open with a reception on March 20 from 3 PM to 6 PM, which will feature a talk by both artists at 5 PM.
Serge Strosberg’s Tales of the High Line
Described as the Expressionist of Fashion, Serge Strosberg is an observer of downtown New York and its stories, a lover of rich color and intriguing personalities. Belgian by birth, he received his formal art education in Paris. After several successful exhibitions in Europe and the United States, Strosberg moved to New York in 2008 and has lived and worked in SoHo ever since. His paintings exude the vibrant flavors of this neighborhood.
Strosberg inhabits a space four floors above the retail windows of SoHo—stores he calls beautiful, scary, and endlessly inspiring. Reflections are often explored in his paintings; he is an observer of society, genuinely interested in other people and what they project. In this new series, Tales of the High Line, Strosberg juxtaposes the inner lives of fashionable subjects with the natural world of downtown Manhattan’s elevated 1.45-mile-long park and its ever-changing colors, textures, and seasons. Through oil paintings and watercolors, the artist depicts scenes of Lower West Side architecture as well as more intimate interior portraits.
“Serge Strosberg is a realistic painter of the urban world and its characters, but with an expressionistic style,” says Lionheart Gallery Director Susan Grissom. “In this exciting series, Strosberg uses the High Line as his own playground. You will feel like a voyeur as you are given a telescopic view into slices of his characters’ lives, and glimpse how they view the High Line from their unique worlds.”
Strosberg notes that the High Line reminds him of his Parisian past and the Promenade Plantée, the elevated park on which New York’s was modeled. To capture his often unusual points of view, the artist first photographed his chosen High Line locations, then painted the images. This process was not without risk. “I took many pictures in locations that were sometimes adventurous,” he says, confiding that he and his models were often chased by security guards and photographed by onlookers.
Finding inspiration in a variety of masters, from Rembrandt and Rubens to Raphael Soyer, Philip Pearlstein, and Lucien Freud—with whom he exhibited several times—Strosberg is adept at allowing his models’ personalities to shine through their skin. He uses the same treatment on the Manhattan skyline. “The color and the movement of the brush, the plants and trees of the High Line, give life to these architectures,” he says.
The color in these works is opulent and lush. Strosberg has studied with the German Expressionist Jörg Hermle, who taught him the centuries-old technique of painting with oil and egg tempera; to this day, he makes his own paint and mediums, mixing egg with pure pigments imported from Rome. Through these traditional methods he achieves maximum color contrasts and sensual flesh tones. Strosberg has recently started adding enamel paints to his tempera for even more intense, concentrated hues, which he considers essential for creating emotional charge.
Tales of the High Line features views of both impressive heights and breathy closeness. In High Line III (The Standard), Strosberg paints the hotel notorious for its exhibitionist glamor; it looms like an open book of windows against a blue spring sky. The Starrett-Lehigh Building glows in tones of lavender and gold, a bewitching vision of the Chelsea landmark at dusk. More intimate portraits peek into bedroom and private balconies, as in The After Party where a pixie-coiffed model leans in reverie, early-hours Manhattan in the background. It should come as no surprise that the artist studied in his Paris days with Vogue and Elle photographer Peter Knapp.
In the words of Strosberg, “The High Line is a surrealist place where you have plants, glass, reflections, and silence from traffic in a city where it is hard to find oxygen. To me, the High Line is a breath of oxygen and almost a fantasy area.”
Jo Hay’s Rabbitude
British figurative painter Jo Hay studied and worked in Manhattan for years before making her current home in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She is widely known for large-scale paintings that explore sexuality, gender, and identity, as in her self-portrait Dodger which placed as a semi-finalist in the 2015 BP Portrait Award. Hay is fascinated by human psychological and biological perception of gender, and her interest in subjects with both male and female characteristics was first inspired by the glittering androgyny of British glam rock musicians in the nineteen-seventies.
Rabbitude marks a departure from these portraits; it showcases new works in a series that Hay has continued to explore since her graduate school days at the New York Academy of Art. “I initially imagined the rabbit paintings would be purely experimental,” she says of her first examples painted in 2010, calling them a reaction to long hours studying traditional figurative painting. “I very quickly realized that they are equally relevant portraits in themselves.”
Hay calls the rabbits an exercise in finding new ways to construct figures without concern for likeness or gender. They help her to deal purely with form, space, and anatomy, and she closely considers each animal’s personality differences to make every painting unique. Rabbits also have powerful symbolic associations for Hay. “My mother gave me a soft toy rabbit on the day I was born that I still have today…aside from being a symbol of great comfort, I see traits of the rabbit personality in my own, especially when making paintings. I relate to their alert, edgy energy and the constant vigilance required to always remain nimble enough to get in and out of fluctuating situations.”
“Jo Hay is a wonderful, expressionistic painter who will take you down a rabbit hole into a magical warren,” says Lionheart Gallery Director Susan Grissom. “If you have ever been lucky enough to know a rabbit and their moods and emotions, you will see that Jo paints them in such a way that you can identify their distinct personalities. While Rabbitude features portraits of many sizes, they all have such a strong presence in the gallery that when visitors see them we often hear a loud gasp and then giggles of delight.”
Hay’s dynamic painting style incorporates a range of marks made with different sized brushes and tools, which lends a charged air of activity to her canvases. In her own words, “Presenting a full range of calligraphic difference in painting is like playing with a full orchestra. Imagine hearing a symphony played on a single violin!” The same can be said of her color choices, which are clean mixes. She only uses primary colors and white, maintaining firm control over relationships between hues. The result is an often unexpected meld of shades, as in her new triptych—Ziggy, Major Tom, and Blackstar—where black and brown rabbits are articulated in swatches of cerulean, moss, peach, persimmon, and slate. “Overall I am looking for a mixture of harmony and disharmony, the decorous and the vulgar, the predictable and the unpredictable, all to maintain strong visual interest for the viewer,” she says, noting recent inspirations in the paintwork and color choices of Philip Guston, Dana Schutz, and Jenny Saville.
The portraits in Rabbitude pulse with life. “I have found when painting living creatures that there is an alchemical moment that occurs usually in the middle of the painting,” Hay muses. “It is no longer just a set of particular paint marks but instead the image suddenly feels alive to the point that I experience a quietly disarming sense of it taking a breath.”
On View and Related Programming
Tales of the High Line and Rabbitude will premier with an opening reception at the Lionheart Gallery on March 20, 2016, from 3 PM to 6 PM. Visitors are invited to attend a talk by both artists at 5 PM. The exhibition runs through May 1, 2016. Interviews with both artists can be read here and here.
The Lionheart Gallery is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 11 AM to 5 PM, and Sundays from 12 noon to 5 PM. For more information and directions to the gallery at 27 Westchester Avenue in Pound Ridge, New York, visit www.thelionheartgallery.com or call 914.764.8689.