New York

Luis Marsans

Claude Bernard Gallery

Recent work by the noted Spanish realist Luis Marsans was presented in his first one-person exhibition held in the United States. In it, Marsans revealed himself to be an artist of a temperament eminently well suited to capturing the emblematic essence of reality. Missing from these small-format paintings and drawings is even the slightest hint of calculation or self-consciousness, those being the common failings of many another artist of similar ambition. Instead, there is a sensibility of pure creative imagination.

Imagination, for an artist like Marsans who is able to find inspiration in the ordinary events and objects of the world around him, is especially critical, given that it is the very element on which a viewer’s deeper levels of emotive response depends. While the attraction to the familiar and everyday seemed obvious in Marsan’s choice of subjects—flowers, walls, building facades, and libraries are among his recurrent themes—his fascination with the appearances of things was evoked by his delicate handling and controlled manner of description. Underneath this placid demeanor Marsans reveals a spirit passionately engaged with wresting profound personal meanings from the external aspects of life.

In the painting Library XI, 1985, conventional responses are thwarted by the blunt directness of the radically cropped close-up of two shelves from a bookcase. The warmth of the colors flowing through the surface adds an appealing layer of animated resonance that serves to keep the image on sentient edge, in the state of always becoming more than that which meets the eye. By varying the legibility of the lettering on the spines of the books, Marsans encourages us to imagine the richness and complexity of civilization and the profusion of forms in which it is embodied. As thoughts about the titles lead to notions about the marvelous function books perform as communicative containers of ideas, the tactile treatment of the forms makes itself known, and the picture, in a full-bodied illusionistic sense, begins to feel real, to be right there in front of us where it will live on and on in the mind’s eye.

Ronny Cohen