Ben Aronson "Risk and Reward"

Tibor de Nagy Gallery

poster for Ben Aronson "Risk and Reward"

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The paintings included in the exhibition represent the artist’s recent inquiry into the realm of finance; players such as Wall Street traders and auctioneers participate actively in the commodification of art, bringing about risks as well as rewards. Despite the apparent intimacy of the painted compositions, Mr. Aronson creates a palpable distance between subject and viewer. We look directly at traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, but they do not acknowledge us. A group of three figures huddled together in a dimly-lit restaurant seem as disengaged with one another as they are with the viewer. The works, both large and small in scale, are rigorously painted and capture the ever-changing light as it both conceals and articulates the forms of the streets and buildings, some falling into shadow.

Ben Aronson received both his B.A. and M.A. degrees in painting from Boston University. He has been the recipient of four National Academy of Design awards and has also taught graduate school seminars at Harvard University. His work has been exhibited and collected widely throughout the United States, most notably the Boston Museum of Fine Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art, among others.



from October 21, 2010 to November 27, 2010


Ben Aronson

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    TROLLBYrm: (2010-11-10 at 23:11)

    The most recent offering at the Tibor De Nagy gallery may be the first response from the Fine Arts world to Wall Street’s collapse. Ben Aronson’s masterful technique and references evoke a modern purgatory of Man’s own creation.

    The opening painting, Volatility Index, pulls the unsuspecting viewer along the streets of the rushed, caffeinated post 9-11 financial district. US flags run rampant. There is also a surplus of police. The foreground figure, an anonymous business Everyman, is about to brush by the observer, pulling them into the action. These trickles of foreboding burst into full unearthly bloom as one rounds the corner into the gallery.

    Inside the show is a world of isolation – figures do not speak directly to each other. Headsets, cell phones, phone lines and computer screens all play an important part in the compositions, whether it be the jagged, electric zig-zag of the phone cord cutting across the canvas in The Rumor or the banks of artificial light generated by computer screens creating a Vegas-like netherworld in the title painting.

    It is also a society where everything has a price. Aronson uses Bacon’s brutal, intestinal vermillion to excellent effect in two pieces: Auction, Fair Warning and Nighthawk’s, Delmonico’s. In the former painting, Bacon’s masterpiece Three Studies for a Crucifixion is on the auction block; its hellish glow permeates the room. Seven auction representatives obstruct the view of the triptych in a flurry of phone bidding. In the later, two bald middle-aged suited men flank an uncomfortable young woman with downcast eyes; she may well be a call girl. The man on the right is mid phone conversation. The man in the left does not appear interested in talking.

    Using an interesting variety of perspectives, the paintings have an immediate “you are there” energy. In one of Aronson’s landscapes (more in keeping with his previous work) Manhattan Sunrise, 6th and 55th, the unnerving plummet-to-sidewalk vision is one that might be imagined by someone about to jump from the window of a penthouse. Talking Numbers crops out the upper part of a trader’s face; there is a swirling mid-torso view of a broker in action. The horizon line is askew, adding to the disorienting effect.

    The boldest of the paintings, Inside the Machine, again refers to Bacon, this time after his series Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X. The ghoulish, primal screaming figure of the Pope has been replaced by a grimacing and coldly glowing Wall Streeter.

    Aronson’s show demands repeated viewings. It is not easy to digest the spiritual bankruptcy on which our modern economy is based, but it is worth it. This is important and difficult work; the reward is more than worth the risk.

    Risk and Reward: Tibor De Nagy Gallery 724 5th Avenue, through November 27.

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