James Aponovich at Clark Gallery

Parables, Portraits and Recent Still Lifes

By: - Oct 21, 2019

James Aponovich: Parables, Portraits and Recent Still Lifes

Clark Gallery
145 Lincoln Road
PO Box 339
Lincoln, MA 01773 
Tel. 617-386-6115
Through November 30

We met in 1985 when James Aponovich had a solo exhibition at the Currier Gallery in Manchester, New Hampshire. A retrospective for a realist artist, then just 37, was most unusual. The New Hampshire born, educated and located artist went to art school, but as a realist, was largely self taught.

Even with the best education it takes decades to master the craft of representation. With post modernism art education shifted from studio techniques to conceptualism. Other than a few traditional schools young artists inclined to classical painting were largely on their own.

There was in fact hostility to representation. Some years ago I curated a show of his work for the New England School of Art & Design. It was my program to have noon pizza and talks with the artists. Often students, and faculty, came more for the former than latter. The chair of the fine arts program declined to have him come to her class and discouraged students from attending the lecture. One that did stated that the experience was inspiring.

I included his phenomenal work in other projects- a traveling show of portraits- and The Object: Found, Observed and Imagined for the Fitchburg Art Museum. His former San Francisco gallery, Hackett Freedman, commissioned me to write the essay for a superb catalogue.

It is a delight to view recent work at the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Mass. A stunning self  portrait shocked to reveal his age. There are vivid memories of portraits created when we were all so young, bold and beautiful.

In the Clark picture he looks out at us over black glasses. There is the complex pattern of a plaid shirt. Pencil in hand he hovers over a sheet of drawing paper. Before him are eggs and a basket. The surface and light continues to be even and meticulous.

Time, however, as revealed in new work, has served him well. The still life paintings are largely as I remember them. They range from simple to complex arrangements. The larger and more elaborate ones have objects set before bucolic backgrounds from landscape vistas or Italian villages.

It was a surprise to see pure landscapes like a rendering of an abandoned farm.

We wondered about the identity of Peter who is the subject of two portraits. There were similar questions about a painter at work and “Unidentified Portrait” of what appears to be a very specific Italian food purveyor in his shop.

Most intriguing, and untypical of the artist, is a genre painting “Soup Kitchen.” The composition and technique evoke the inspiration of Caravaggio’s “Supper at Emmaus” in Milan’s Brera Art Gallery. Here the standing Jewish innkeeper appears to be the artist.

Long a student of great painting it appears that Aponovich is providing a fresh interpretation of the Baroque master. We would enjoy seeing more of this aspect of the new work.