“The strange thing about heads is that the more you leave out, the more intense the expression becomes. In a different way than in portrait painting. It has absolutely nothing to do with that. These figures are just that to me: figures. They’re sexless, they have no special attributes. They are specters, shadows. What’s very important to me is the intensity, the presence. What that does. What it does in the painting. What it does with the viewer.” – Max Neumann.
For its second solo show of the artist, Bruce Silverstein shows large-scale paintings on canvas as well as a single over-painted photograph belonging to Max Neumann, who has been the focus of over 150 solo exhibitions over the past forty years. While his subject matter, the human figure – the head in particular, has remained consistent, Neumann’s style has varied, and his latest canvases are a new reading of the human face.
Contemporary in tone, these head studies are almost cartoon-like – having had their eyes and mouths removed, Neumann eliminates the key to deciphering the figure’s emotion. These new paintings are particularly interesting for their cropped quality, appearing as though the subject was seen through a viewfinder – subjective and perhaps voyeuristic.
As he does not divulge his inspiration and source material, it is difficult to articulate a definitive meaning or give explanation of these images; rather, Neumann leaves the viewer to fill in the gaps and to construct imaginary narratives, as his images exist outside of time or place. In their bareness, Neumann’s paintings possess an emotive power, and an ineffable psychological drama heightened by his treatment of the canvas surface – combing and wiping the paint, and draining the image in select places to mark each face.
Max Neumann: New Works, until 21 February 2015, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, 535 W. 24th St. New York, NY. For more information visit www.brucesilverstein.com
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1. Max Neumann,Untitled, February, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Bruce Silverstein Gallery.