The Minstrel Cycle
April 16, 2011
through May 14, 2011
NEW YORK, NY (March 11, 2011) — Jonathan LeVine Gallery is pleased to announce The Minstrel Cycle, new works by Van Arno, in what will be the Los Angeles-based artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery and most ambitious show, to date.
The Minstrel Cycle features a series of seven large multi-figure oil paintings on canvas, reflecting themes of race and music, which the artist has explored and developed over the past several years. For this exhibition, Arno draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including real and imagined historical events, the surprising true lives of entertainers, blues and hip-hop lyrics, multi-cultural folklore and Afro-Caribbean mysticism.
The show title references minstrelsy, a controversial form of entertainment from the 1800s, in which performers in blackface lampooned African-American culture through comic-musical variety acts loaded with racial stereotypes. Since the word minstrel is so culturally charged in discussions of race-relations in the United States and in the historical roots of contemporary musical influences, the artist thought it would be a fitting title for his new body of work.
There is a broad range of subjects for the paintings in this show, including Lucifer and the blind fates (three prophetic witches who share one eye, also known as the Graeae in Greek mythology) along with historical figures such as the famous entertainer, Josephine Baker. Throughout his work, Arno consistently pushes the human figure into extremes of posture to emphasize his Baroque sensibility and approach to create tension, contrast, form and shadow.
In the artist’s words: “I attempt to paint the archetypical moment of clarity and passion. Imagery must be made exciting and alive. Rules of lighting, anatomy, gravity and physics must be bent or broken to make the picture LOUD. That is the ultimate goal of my work.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in 1963 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Van Arno was raised in St. Louis, Missouri where he attended a Christian Science school from Kindergarten through High school. Arno studied at Otis Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles, and by the early '90s, his illustration resume included skateboard deck designs for Powell Peralta, story-boarding for Robotech, box art for Bandai Games, as well as numerous clients in the music industry. When his focus shifted to fine art, Arno began to create figurative works featuring religious, folk, pop culture, and mythical heroes. His paintings have been exhibited across the country in galleries and institutions such as the Riverside Art Museum and Laguna Art Museum in California and the Hollywood Art and Culture Center in Florida. A book of the artist’s collected works (2000-2008), entitled Volume: The Uber-Mannerist Work of Van Arno was published in 2009.