New York

Andrew Stevovich

Coe Kerr Gallery

More than a bit of a romantic, with a touch of the classicist about him, the painter Andrew Stevovich is one reason the field of contemporary figurative realism has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance of late. Stevovich has a genuine flair for symbolic statement, for bringing out life’s metaphorical significance, not in any heavy or didactic fashion but in the most enchanting of terms. In this show of recent paintings Stevovich revealed quite a keen eye for the quiet drama of daily existence. He showed the timeless element behind the commonplace encounter, the elemental forces of love and desire governing human behavior. Focusing on situations ranging from riding the subway to ordering a pizza to being part of an audience, Stevovich transformed each vignette into a theater of appearances. The main players in this theater are men and women who seemed to inhabit the colorful compositions in much the same way saints did in Italian Renaissance painting.

Though they are dressed in modern fashion, the air of monumentality and self-absorbed mystery of the men and women in The Audience at the Club Durango, 1989, seems positively Giottoesque. From their round faces accented by small tight-lipped mouths, gently sloping noses and arc-shaped brows enclosing almond-shaped eyes to their stereo-metric torsos, the figures are all curves. The composition is built on the rhythm of those curves. While the complex formal arrangement of this painting is fascinating, it is the expressive qualities of the figures that steal the show. The intimate manner in which the figures relate to one another and communicate to their viewing audience, mainly through their gazes and hand gestures, is almost startling to behold. They possess a gravity that seems more proper to the realm of ceremony than to the everyday.

In Lipstick, 1988, Stevovich shows his talent for transforming a small incident into a momentous interlude. The painting shows one woman applying lipstick to another. The concentration of both figures on this action, which is intensified by the tight focus, brings to mind ritualistic connotations that go beyond the rites of the beauty parlor or cosmetic counter. What finally produces the magical effect of these compositions is the artist’s style of rendering. His scrupulous clarity is itself a sign of the poetic grace of his vision.

Ronny Cohen