The colors are deeply saturated, having approximated with near perfection the intense hue of a rose and, in so doing, performed a sort of abstraction of the figure itself. These roses are fleshy and voluptuous, as though they were sexual organs, stigmata, or both.
To understand this current work however, one needs to understand its precedents. Morphesis has literally loomed large in Los Angeles for years, as southbound motorists on the 101 freeway in downtown Los Angeles will recognize his face from a portrait that muralist Kent Twitchell painted for the 1984 Olympics—a tribute that underscores the esteem in which Morphesis has been held for decades in Los Angeles. In fact, concurrent with his GARBOUSHIAN GALLERY solo exhibition, Morphesis’ work will be included in L.A. Raw: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980, the Pacific Standard Time exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.
Morphesis’ works from the late 1970s and 1980s were heavy, muscular paintings which appeared to simultaneously reveal and conceal symbolic information—from religious iconography such as skulls, the Crucifixion, and pietà, to images of mythological heroism and hubris. Imagine the subject matter of a Velasquez or Caravaggio rendered with the methods of Pollock or Rauschenberg. The work was both physically and metaphysically weighty.
Into the 1990s, the aggressive works gave way to flatter surfaces and tighter imagery. In this work, Morphesis’ technical acumen was evident as action began to give way to meditation.
With Time and Desire, the different creative conventions Morphesis has developed over the years merge. Amidst his liberal application of paint and his overt symbolism, there is a refined, almost classical sense of grace with which Morphesis treats the rose subject. He explains, “My work has always been about time—about both its coming and going. There is a lifetime of work in these paintings.”
ABOUT JIM MORPHESIS
Jim Morphesis’ paintings have been shown in nearly two hundred national and international exhibitions since the early 1970s, and are in the permanent collections of more than 25 museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Morphesis has been recognized with awards that include: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Modern and Contemporary Art Council, New Talent Purchase Award, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant for Painting and Sculpture and a First Prize at the Fourth Florence International Biennial of Contemporary Art. Born in Philadelphia, Morphesis received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Tyler School of Art of Temple University in 1970, and earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts in 1972. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
TIME AND DESIRE remains on view at GARBOUSHIAN GALLERY from January 28 – March 10, 2012. An opening reception is on January 28, 2012, from 6 to 8 pm. An artist talk with Howard N. Fox (Curator Emeritus, Los Angeles County Museum of Art) will take place during the run of the exhibition; date to be announced.