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Lamar Peterson: Suburbia Sublime

September 27, 2014 - January 4, 2015

For over a decade Lamar Peterson has imagined and animated a cast of colorful, lively and mysterious characters through his work. Lamar Peterson: Suburbia Sublime is the first survey exhibition and includes painting, collage, drawing, and a newly commissioned outdoor sculpture. (right: Lamar Peterson, Bliss, 2013, oil on canvas, 73 x 59 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Fredericks & Freiser, New York. Exhibition is organized by Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota. Image provided by Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota.)

This exhibition is a comprehensive overview of the artist's career since graduating with an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 2001. It spans 14 years of creating vibrant painted images that poignantly examine American middle-class culture through a re-contextualization of both historical and contemporary racial stereotypes. With adroit handling of ink, gouache, acrylic and oil paint, a distinctive color palette combined with surface treatment ranging from the super flat and hard edge to expressive and loose brush, Peterson confronts black expression, iconic and non-iconic representation of American masculinity, and the incongruity of all.

Peterson was born and raised in a quiet suburban neighborhood in central Florida, educated on the east coast, had a studio practice in Brooklyn for ten years, and relocated to Minnesota in 2011. This biography and geography, along with a sense of fantasy voyeurism inform many of his visual chronicles. Mining imagery from popular culture, science fiction, landscape painting, fairy tales, art history and comic books, Peterson creates candy-colored, fictional fantasy-filled narratives that are immediately inviting and playful. His cast of whimsical and quirky human and non-human characters, adorable pets, aliens, machines and amusing props interact within magical bucolic settings, calm oceanfronts before majestic mountain ranges, and otherworldly space-scapes. With a signature style and distinct mythology, ideas about family and relationships and childhood and maturity are core to his representational narrative and inventive storytelling.

Exploring male experience, with a cheerful approach, Peterson's figurative impulse evokes notions of joy and antagonism, as well as reality and absurdity in surreal and humorous renderings. Not immediately apparent is a masterful use of the sublime; as the journey of seeking the American dream unfolds, so too does conflict, difference, alienation, vulnerability and fear. Peterson's colorful vignettes, portraits, window views onto the world, and often bizarre juxtapositions share beauty and contradiction through themes of love, family and desire, alongside a capricious fascination with frustration, futility and irony. Peterson constructs a hard-edged tension between delight and danger that approaches the absurd as he diverts pleasure in compositions that seem to taunt innocence, mock rationale and ultimately explore humanity with a jovial punch.

Lamar Peterson: Suburbia Sublime is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota State Arts Board and the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation. This exhibition is organized by Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota and curated by Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director.

(above: Lamar Peterson, Grackle, 2014, oil and acrylic on paper, 16 x 12 inches, Collection of the artist. Exhibition is organized by Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota. Image provided by Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota.)


David Rathman: Stand By Your Accidents, also on view September 27, 2014 - January 4, 2015

David Rathman: Stand By Your Accidents is the artist's first major museum survey and provides a comprehensive overview of the artist's production, highlighting the progression and evolution of a unique studio practice spanning two decades. Through his masterful use of ink, oil paint, and watercolor, David Rathman confronts iconic emblems and motifs regularly associated with notions of masculinity -- the American West, rock and roll, boxing, football, hockey and the automobile. Frequently incorporating text and image, his works present themselves as fractured narratives -- a singular, crucial moment of action in an otherwise protracted story that has been gradually unfolding out of view. His protagonists seem to be caught in a moment of reflection or introspection, showing, in many instances, signs of fragility -- answering for things they have done or responding to the things done to them, standing proudly firm or humbly making amends. (right: David Rathman, Hope Your Happy Heather, 2007, watercolor on paper, 18 x 24 inches, Collection of Christopher Hamick. This exhibition is organized by Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota. Image provided by Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota.)

In many of the works, Rathman considers the emotions of defeat, or what could have been. His pensive characters rarely seem to taste success, triumph, or the joy of victory -- they remain inches or miles from an intended objective. Rathman's nameless antiheros are frozen in a contemplative state, rife with the intertwining themes of melancholy, humor, failure, mortality, nostalgia and acceptance. But as is often the case in literary, filmic and art history, we have a desire to empathize and identify with the underdog. In this way, Rathman's work possesses the unique ability to build connections with the viewer -- formally, conceptually, and emotionally.

David Rathman lives and works in Minneapolis. He received a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1982. He was the recipient of a Bush Foundation fellowship in 1992, McKnight Foundation Fellowships in 1993 and 2000, and a Minnesota Book Award in 2000. He has had solo exhibitions at Larissa Goldston Gallery, New York, NY; Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis, MN; Mary Goldman Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Clementine Gallery, New York, NY; Franklin Art Works, Minneapolis, MN, and Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City, CA. He has participated in group exhibitions at Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, and Cohan and Leslie, New York, NY, among many others. Rathman's work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.

David Rathman: Stand By Your Accidents was organized by Rochester Art Center and curated by Kris Douglas, Chief Curator. It is accompanied by a catalog that includes an interview with the artist by Siri Engberg, Curator, Walker Art Center, and essays by Kris Douglas, Chief Curator, Rochester Art Center, and Minnesota writer Brad Zellar. David Rathman: Stand By Your Accidents and catalog were supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, and John Knudsen & Brian Austin.

"David Rathman and Lamar Peterson have sharply different artistic styles, but both create powerful images that raise unsettling questions about contemporary American life," says Hansen Mulford, Curator, The Orlando Museum of Art.


(above: David Rathman, Burnsville Girls Don't Tell, 2006, watercolor on paper, 10 x 13 inches, Collection of Scott Silver. This exhibition is organized by Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota. Image provided by Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota.)


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