“Nudity is the uniform of the other side…nudity is a shroud.” – Milan Kundera
The glistening and bronzed naked flesh amidst the austere black background by Aaron Nagel made it quite a religious experience for his first solo show “Sovereign” in New York City at Lyons Wier Gallery on 24th Street.
The female body is rendered masterfully by Nagel who adapted a classical style with the oil paintings he created for this show, which definitely showed discipline and the skill to render lush female forms with a regal bearing. There is nothing sordid or blatantly erotic about these naked women with stoic faces and languidly in repose. The stark form in dark backgrounds recall formal portraiture done in the likes of Velazquez for nobility. Just dress these women in period clothes and you won’t blink twice accepting them as beautiful renderings. In the successful shading and application of making flesh healthy to a dewy depth that Nagel has proven his lifelong pursuit of doing oils have paid off. A self taught painter, it denotes a mastery and skill set not to be taken lightly. This artist has serious drive and pushes his figurative realism works to heavenly heights.
Executing these paintings in a dilapidated townhouse where the interior was painted and furnished in black that the models stood out in stark glory. There is a certain religious under current in some of the poses that his dark haired muses annotate such as in Triumph (2012) where the woman sits proudly and with the thin halo behind her head that it could be easily the modern and earthy Virgin Mary sitting on her throne. In Lie Down With Lions (2012) that Nagel illustrates the classic homage to the reclining nude – a neo-Odalisque placidly reposed in a tufted leather couch where the feminine is surrounded by the masculine environment. This juxtaposition of inherent qualities makes Nagel’s nudes very dynamic yet retaining a composure that is quite dignified. These are women who are earthly embodiments but shown in a very unattainable almost heavenly surrendered repose where the soundtrack can be chanting monks or angels breaking into song.
One is left to commiserate on the still taboo idea of the naked flesh but this is done tastefully. There is technique, respect to the classic masters, and a profound sense of serene solitude with sublime dignity that no lecherous gaze can ever destroy. For this, Nagel is successful and deserves the rousing chorus of angels.
Aaron Nagel: Sovereign / On View: October 11 – November 10, 2012
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday (11 am – 6 pm)
Lyons Wier Gallery. 542 West 24th Street. New York, NY 10011
art review by: Oscar A. Laluyan
images from Lyons Wier Gallery courtesy of the artist
event photos by: Max Noy