Thursday, July 09, 2015

Mining the Past to See the Present

“I'm not a Realist, I'm a Classicist
David Ligare

The Southern Californian artist David Ligare has taken the teachings of the ancient Greeks, like the philosopher Plato,  fifth-century B.C. Greek sculptor Polykleitos as well as the theories of the Greek mathematician Pythagoras to heart and used their theories to inform his paintings.  

As he said in a conversation on his website with Robert DickensonBeyond the technical aspects of making art, there is a language that allows us to truly see a work. All art exists within a structure of critical and historical knowledge that is constantly evolving and being reevaluated - just like language itself.

Ligare elaborated stating “I also believe that the true purpose of art is to fulfill societal needs and, while modern art had much to teach us earlier on, like almost all art movements, it's become repetitive and superficial and has basically been feeding off of itself. I believe that what we need now is an art that is skillfully representational and that is not fixed to the present but is historically fluid and flexible.

Whilst not seeking to mourn a bygone era, but rather to emphasize its relevance to our time, Ligare questions whether modern arts preoccupation with originality is achievable. As he has said “Most contemporary artists are straining to be "edgy." "Predictably quirky" is how one critic put it. That said, I do agree that originality is important, if only for the sake of change and fashion, but we have to ask ourselves, what is originality? When there are thousands of neo-expressionists, thousands of conceptual and installation artists, thousands of eccentric-abstractionists and thousands of every category that you might find in the most current graduate school programs and in the pages of Artforum magazine. The so-called "edge" in the art world is a very crowded place." 

In his classically inspired realistic landscape, architectural, and figurative paintings Ligare rejects the warts and all approach in favor of a poetic rendering. As he says “It’s the argument that you often hear, that art should be a reflection of the times or of 'real' life - a mirror held up to reality, etc. The truth is, too much looking in the mirror is not a good thing. Whether by way of Realism or Modernism or any mixture, too much looking in the mirror is narcissism.

To which he added “What I have tried to do is to make paintings that are abstracted by time rather than style and that illustrate stories that might have some contemporary application as well.

The retrospective exhibition David Ligare: Californian Classicist is currently on show at The Crocker Art Museum until the 20th of September.

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