In the 1950 Billy Wilder film Sunset Boulevard, the delusional Norma Desmond responded after a studio hand remarked that she used to be big – “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” Cristin Tierney on 29th Street presented “Cinematic Paintings” by Joe Fig. Instead of the faded silver screen stars, it concentrated on the larger than life scenes of artists from the movies. Arte Fuse attended the opening and was surprisingly pleased to find diminutive oil on canvas paintings.
Joe Fig explores the larger than life myth of the tortured artist as portrayed in films. Some of the big screen movies he referenced like Frida, Pollock, Basquiat, Surviving Picasso, etc. are favorites or at least familiar to most viewing the oeuvre. All the films he chose are seminal movies worth adding to your Netflix list and view it with a fresh pair of eyes. No matter what the size of the screen, the scene plays bigger in our perception. Therefore, Fig capitalizes on this reactionary view by going in the opposite direction when he made actual works for this current series. Relationships: Vincent and Theo Van Gogh (2012) measures 9 X 16 inches. The intimate size of the oil paintings resulted as a decision made by Fig to rather not exploit the huge moments in these artist’s lives by cinematic proportions but instead provide a juxtaposition where the smaller dimensions gives it more focus and depth. Precious things come in small packages and it does force Fig to render the scenes in the best techniques with an artistic verve that needs to break through the four corners of the frame.
Besides the iconic and dramatic moments there is a very discretionary and editing eye as Fig chose to render scenes into his paintings that are not the expected ones. The subtle yet layered quiet scenes are what he captures best. It is the mode of silence, contemplative moment, isolated discovery and resolute peace. In Lovers: Frida and Diego (2012) that we behold this intimate slice of time that is deftly tapped where what is not apparent resonates far more potently. Silence does speak louder than an overwrought cacophony of blathering noise. This also applies to the composition he includes into each piece that the essential items are framed and not crowded with distractions.
Joe Fig does paint the lives of the artists as big even though his representation of it is small. This dichotomy is a mirror of how great lives are measured in small moments that define the true grit of character.
Joe Fig: Cinematic Paintings / On View: September 6 – October 20, 2012
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday (10 am – 6 pm) & by appointment
Cristin Tierney Gallery. 546 West 29th Street. New York, NY 10001
art review by: Oscar A. Laluyan
images c/o Cristin Tierney Gallery courtesy of the artist, Joe Fig
event photography by: Max Noy