Southampton painter Jeff Muhs opened an exhibition of new work at Lyons Wier Gallery in Manhattan on Saturday.
With his latest show, The Origin of Nymphs, Muhs builds upon his ongoing series of paintings, entitled Another History. The artist became very interested in certain iconic images that have sustained their power—compositionally and intellectually—throughout the ages. In particular, Muhs was struck by the intangible characteristics that enable some works of art to transcend generations, time and trends, becoming part of our current collective culture and the lexicon of art history.
Muhs identified true mastery of image-making and artistic prowess in great works from the Renaissance to Romanticism. Standing in front of “La Grande Odalisque” by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres (1814) at the Louvre in Paris, France, the painter began to contemplate the profundity of such an enduring image. As a classically trained artist, Muhs was drawn to the draftsmanship and deftness of the work and was stunned by its contributions to, and negation from, art in the later half of the 20th century.
Inspired, Muhs began a quest to truly understand his own work in an artistic, psychological and cultural sense. He began to break down his painting into its basic elements and its relation to the stylized female form. In an effort to distill the magical quality the painting has carried through the ages, Muhs focused on “La Grande Odalisque,” and spent time trying to understand the subject’s expression, her stature and how she related to the culture of her time and ours.
Eventually, this led Muhs to a process of deeper study and the deconstruction and rearrangement of other iconic images from art history. Appropriating these world-renowned iconic images, the artist created new works such as “Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne (after Ingres)” and “Venus and Cupid (after Pellegrini).” These paintings carry some of the inherent power and design of the originals, yet Muhs makes them his own by softly blurring the classic imagery and combining it with colorful new artistic elements.
A Southampton native, Muhs came to art by way of his father, a sculptor and third-generation hunting and fishing guide. Muhs’ rearing along the barrier beach of Long Island’s south shore instilled in him an intimate knowledge of nature that would later become an integral part of his art making. Muhs attended and completed his BFA from Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts in 1988. His work can be found in several private and public collections, namely Beth Rudin DeWoody, Guild Hall Museum, Caesars Palace Las Vegas, Ronald Lauder, Cantor Fitzgerald, Time Warner, Inc., Los Angeles County Museum, Hunter Museum and Ward Museum, among others. Muhs‘ studio is located in Southampton.
The Origin of Nymphs is on display through February 9 at the Lyons Wier Gallery, located at 542 West 24th Street in Manhattan. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information and images of all Jeff Muhs’ paintings from the show, call 212-242-6220 or visit www.lyonswiergallery.com.