April W. Klimley, Art Critic
If you’re at the south end of the Jersey Shore this month, stop by the Torche Galerie in Belmar. Many of the works on display last month in the gallery’s 2nd anniversary exhibition have been either taken down or sold. But it’s worth a stop to see the magnificent interior space—as well as to examine some of the art gems which are still hanging on the wall. The space is the creation of owner/sculptor Roddy Wildeman, who has his own workroom connected to the gallery in the back of the first floor.
Interior of the Torche Galerie, Belmar. 5.9.2015
Two of the very best artworks from the exhibition are still on the walls. One is a joyful abstract acrylic entitled Eight Minutes by Wayne Lerman. The brilliant flashes of color in the painting are arranged in such a way that they are feast for the eye and lead the viewer to examine each corner of the canvas over and over again.
Wayne Lerman, Eight Minutes, acrylic, Torche Gallery, 5.9.2015
The Narcissist by Bill Ross is the other piece of art from the exhibition that stands out as very special and still remains in the gallery. (Two of the other pieces Ross had in the anniversary exhibition have been sold.)
The Narcissist is a stunning—and shocking—black and white charcoal drawing on primed paper. At 48” by 36,” this large drawing dominates the wall between two windows. A chalice holds a tower of jumbled, black and white images piled up, and atop all this sits a man sits on a throne (Bill Ross?). From the right, Michelangelo’s hand of God is pointing down at him and one of his own hands is nailed to a piece of wood and bleeding, clearly a reference to the crucifixion. Everywhere your eye travels up and down this drawing something symbolic is happening, and there are numerous references to iconic images created by famous artists of the past. Somehow the picture all comes together in a big, breathtaking vision. And it’s natural to wonder if the man at the apex of the drawing is being worshiped for better or for worse.
Bill Ross, The Narcissist, black and white charcoal on
primed paper, Torche Gallery, 5.9.2015
It Seems Almost Like Fuseli
Examining this piece of art is not for the faint of heart. In talking to the artist, I learned how much he enjoyed taking certain historical visual references and making them his own. We talked about Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) the German painter particularly famous for his fine wood block prints and engravings. In the lower left-hand corner of the drawing, Ross has used Durer’s famous Melecolia (1514) for inspiration. The original has an angel leaning over sadly with its head in its hand. But the figure in Ross’s drawing resembles Ross rather than the original angel.
When all is said and done, the style and tone of the drawing reminded me most of all of Henry Fuseli (1741-1825)—that strange Swiss painter and draughtsman who selected supernatural subjects for much of his art. Anyone who has seen his most famous work, The Nightmare, might agree. It’s of a helpless woman supine with an incubus hovering over her. This work of Ross is not quite as bizarre or surrealistic. But it still is full of heart-stopping magic realism and foreboding.
Detail from The Narcissist, 5.9.2015
What To Do Next?
Even if you enjoy Ross’s magnificent drawing, you may no want to dwell on this dark vision. After all, it’s springtime. There is plenty of joyous art on display at the Shore right now. Return to my original May column, published last week, to find it. And stay tuned for what’s coming up in June.
Artwork may not be reproduced without permission from the artist. To contact April with ideas for columns or comments go to [email protected]
Details of the Gallery Mentioned in this Column
Belmar—Torche Galerie. 500 Main Street, 732-829-2511
- Ongoing artworks exhibited, including some from the 2nd year anniversary exhibit held last month.
- TIME PERIOD: Through end of month, May 31.