Ronald M. Cohen, David Kroll, and Ken Warneke.
Curated by Ruth Horwich, this exhibition featured paintings by three artists whose formal and conceptual concerns challenge traditional modes of production. Ronald M. Cohen, faculty at the University of Iowa, has exhibited sculpture and painting internationally since 1970. The work for this exhibition consisted mainly of large-scale representations of enigmatic yet often iconographic tableaus, in which the figures are presented as self-aware subjects caught in a moment of “staged reverie.” Cohen employed a stylistic lexicon that drew from conventions in Renaissance painting in order to cloak his expression in the guise of “high art.” These paintings functioned as a self-conscious critique not only of their own expression, but of his later work. David Kroll also employed a self-conscious utilization of historical technique in his intimate still-life paintings and psychologically charged nature scenes. In the manner of European still life of the 17th century, Kroll presented arrangements of fruit, small animals and ornate vases along a dimly lit strip occupying the foreground of his paintings. Kroll consistently placed these groupings against the backdrop of a preternaturally golden twilight, punctuated by the ink-like swells of a darkened forest, reminiscent of the idealized nature scenes of the Hudson River School. Kroll’s painting of psychological narratives pushed his works beyond the nostalgic. In his paintings Ken Warneke altered fragmented facial features of disparate skin tone, gender and poise to create impossible faces that defy the viewer’s sense of intuitive spatial logic. Each of the fragments were roughly isolated in its own oval presence and set adrift on an abstracted plane of ambiguous depth. To Warneke, the paintings were an expression of shared human experience and racial harmony. They dramatized modern tension and strived for transcendent sensuality.