Editor's note: The following essay was reprinted in Resource Library on October 10, 2008 with permission of the author and the Hudson River Museum. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, or wish to obtain a copy of the exhibition catalogue from which it is excerpted, please contact the Hudson River Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:
Andrew Stevovich: The Truth about Lola
by Bartholomew F. Bland
One of the first things evident about Andrew Stevovich's painting is the high degree of polish his canvases evince with their flat, finely honed surfaces and delicate, yet crisp lines, in which he painstakingly paints every detail of the work. His people, stylized faces with distinct almond-shaped eyes, peer at the viewer. Rendered with the greatest care, they ask the viewer to consider their stories, whether melancholy, romantic, violent, or lurid. Who is the creator of these striking creatures of such mystery? In his studio, Stevovich is extremely affable -- a kind, knowledgeable man, and a gracious and thoughtful host, who can quietly and self-effacingly discuss his work. Although some of his canvases have both gracefulness and serenity, the works that are the most intriguing are those that are imbued with a kind of glittering, even ominous dissoluteness. The id-driven characters populating these paintings with their many venal enjoyments seem far removed from the gentle artist one meets living in small-town Massachusetts. Embracing a number of distinctly decadent themes, Andrew Stevovich has gradually evolved a distinctive painting style over the last four decades.
Born in 1948 in Austria, and raised in Washington, D. C., Stevovich graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and earned his Master's in Fine Arts from Massachusetts College of Art. He has been based in and around Boston for most of his adult life, and moved to his current, large studio in Northborough in April 2001. The Old Master paintings in the National Gallery had made a deep impact on Stevovich by the time he began his career in the late 1960s. During this tumultuous time in the visual arts, he spent ten years refining a style that was both highly figurative, yet abstract. He was championed by artist Gordon Peers, a professor of painting and the head of the Fine Arts Department at RISD, when Stevovich was making the break from the pure abstraction being practiced by many of his fellow students. Stevovich jocularly describes his relationship with Gordon Peers as one between a Zen master and a pupil.
Stevovich reveals that one of his paintings, Strawberries, 1968, was inspired by an evocative dream: "I had dreamed of eating strawberries out of a huge bowl with a beautiful woman, and I decided to do a painting about it. However, there was intense pressure to conform to the artistic movements of the day and my fellow students were not into representational painting in any form, and extremely negative about the painting, but I really was satisfied when it was finished and felt good about doing the figure, and Gordon Peers saw something in it." It is notable that, despite his transition to figurative art, Stevovich considers himself to be an abstract painter, more deeply concerned with pattern, shape, rhythm and line than with the overt subject matter of his paintings.
Peers felt that a painting must have an internal structure that is self-evident to the viewer, and that work demanding a long explanation from either the artist or critic was inherently lesser work: "He believed that if a painting required words or verbal explanation you had failed. If you wanted to know more about it -- that would enhance knowledge, but it shouldn't be necessary. Consider beautiful Chinese calligraphy, where, even if you don't know Chinese and don't know how to read it, you can still appreciate the pure beauty of the form. I remember once coming out of an exhibition of Chardin's paintings with Peers and being confronted by one of Jenny Holzer's trademark ticker-tape word installations, and Peers was visibly angry that the work had no real visual component." This idea of internal structure has influenced Stevovich's use of signs and letters as messages within in his work. In order to keep location and message both abstract and universal, Stevovich frequently uses pictorial solutions in advertisements, in works like Cigar Store (fig. ), and he fragments, reverses or crops the lettering as in Celia Coffee House (fig. ).
Stylistically, many critics have commented on the relationship of Stevovich's work to that of the early Italian painters. Growing up in Washington, he often visited the National Gallery of Art, where he internalized the earlier painters' bold colors, repetition of shapes and form, and stylized figures. Not surprisingly, almost all his paintings are boldly colored portraits with stylized figures, many sensuous-lipped, like early Roman sculpture and Renaissance Italian painting-he has never truly embraced either landscape or still life. Although much of his style was influenced by the early Italians, the subject matter of much of the work on view is more decadent, and in most cases, decidedly secular. Stevovich's subjects may be viewed as a contemporary reinterpretation of the German Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), a variation of Expressionism seen in the Weimar Republic during the 1920s and 1930s as viewed through the veil of Italian Renaissance painting. Stevovich eschews the savage caricature of Otto Dix, George Grosz, Max Beckman and Christian Schad, although his fighting men and alluring, tantalizing women provide subject matter with plenty of sizzle, to contrast with his cool, formal style. Works like Woman with Puppet (fig. ) perfectly encapsulate these two major influences on Stevovich's style. The woman controlling the formally dressed little man is deeply reminiscent of the acidic caricatures of ineffectual German leaders as ridiculous puppets. But the humor with which the large female figure regards the puppet makes the work seem a satire of a traditional Madonna and child.
A contemporary example of an artist with interesting similarities to Stevovich is Paul Cadmus, who, unlike Stevovich painted in egg tempura rather than oil, although the two artists have similarities in execution: Cadmus also is an artist with meticulous draftsmanship and execution, along with a painstaking output. Like Stevovich, he drew inspiration from the Italian masters, but pictured a decadent, secular world.
Stevovich's most recent canvas Popcorn (fig. ), on view for the first time in The Truth About Lola in this exhibition, is a major work that has occupied the artist for the last several months, and it provides insights into his technique. As with most of his major paintings, Stevovich notes, "I work backwards -- working first on realizing faces and foreground objects rather than in the more traditional way of blocking in colors and developing the painting from the background forward. I also don't do any underpainting and try to keep the canvas as white, as pure as possible. I think the white adds luminosity to the colors that go down over it, even if it is very subtle...that the colors will be impacted if there is darker coloration in the base layers. If you think about the number of coats it takes to paint a room pure white after it has been painted a dark color you get an idea of the impact this can make. The colors over a white canvas will hopefully glow." Popcorn is also a good example of Stevovich's work that was inspired by "going to the movies." As in many of his paintings, the figures are aware of the viewer watching them from the edges of the canvas. There is a psychological dimension to this interplay. In particular, the single figure of the woman holding the popcorn looks vulnerable -- she holds her popcorn protectively, as though it could be snatched away from her at any moment. Significantly, she is the only character who is truly alone, without a partner in the picture with whom to interact. Two of Stevovich's preliminary drawings also show the artist's process. The drawing marked with the red, green, and yellow lines reveal how Fibonacci's description of the golden ratios of balance and proportion help to achieve a harmonious composition. Although Stevovich does not use these rules, which are based on a .618 to 1 ratio, when organizing a composition, he notes how frequently his finished work instinctively corresponds to classical proportions.
Contemplating the preliminary drawings for Popcorn and then the finished painting, the viewer may notice key changes, from the point where Stevovich uses pastels on the reverse of his drawing to transfer his design to canvas. To begin, he has slightly simplified the final composition. One original figure is removed, which Stevovich found interrupted the internal composition of the piece. Distracting details such as mounds of popcorn are also eliminated. Instead, Stevovich focuses on the formal elements of the piece, the repetition of the red and white striped soda cups, and the carefully balanced color palette of his character's clothing. Stevovich says of this the painting, "I like the composition of the circle of sodas." Stevovich did make other alterations from the final drawings and notes, "Once I got going with the paint, I didn't change sizes of the faces on the movie posters, but I did scale up primary figures' faces. Popcorn got too busy in the background, so to the figure on the left, I added popcorn to keep the rhythm."
Although Stevovich conducts careful planning of his pieces, he notes that the planning is not a scientific process. "To some extent I credit an idea of Michelangelo, who said his work was to find the existing sculpture in the stone. I know it sounds a bit mystical, but at times I have spent all day working on a hand, thinking I can't draw, and then I move the arm and the whole composition suddenly fits together exactly as I meant it to."
Like Popcorn, The Truth about Lola (fig. ) is another painting infused with the theatrical moment. Stevovich has an ongoing interest in the frisson of anticipation built up in people about to engage in the experiential. Subway Station (fig. ), French Singer (fig. ), and Popcorn all project the aura of expectancy. One does get the sense that what these characters are about to experience is not always wholly satisfactory. In The Truth about Lola, some of the expectant audience looks decidedly discontented. In fact, the woman on the right looks as though she may be facing down a crowd offstage. Is the performance sold out? A subject of bad reviews? The viewer will never really know, since Stevovich's work is enigmatic.
It is not surprising that Stevovich's interest in the theatrical is an ongoing theme in his work, since the artist seriously considered studying filmmaking while an undergraduate at the Rhode Island School of Design. However, he ultimately chose the essentially solitary life of the painter and an artistic form where the artist has full creative control. Stevovich describes the frustrations of working collaboratively on a creative project: "One very endless project, the work was very labor intensive and my two other collaborators had fallen in love with one another and neglected the project until just before the end of the semester, when they came out of their rapture and demanded changes to all of the work I had been doing -- I think that experience soured me on collaboration. Even though I abandoned the idea of making movies, I think they are one of the great art forms. I think movies are a great theme, great images and I like the posters too, the option to play around with space and scale. They are spatially ambiguous and the way I position them leads to a not quite clear inside/outside conundrum." In Popcorn, there are certain recurring themes in the movie posters, such as the image of a woman consoling a man. However, the woman in the movie poster has undergone a transformation, morphing from blonde to brunette. Stevovich admits that the man being consoled is a disguised portrait of himself.
Another example of Stevovich's interest in film posters can be seen in Foreign Movie (fig. ), a painting that plays with perspective and with the view through a plate glass window. The expectation and anticipation are of a performance about to be experienced, as exemplified by the anxiousness of the figures hurrying in. This painting is reminiscent of the symbolic billboard in The Great Gatsby with "the eyes of Dr. Eckleburg" staring at the characters as they pass it on the highway. In Foreign Movie, the customer holding his ticket becomes the base of a candelabrum that suggests the form of a menorah. Another interpretation is not of a candelabrum but of a zipper across the lips, and the anticipation of the movie being in a foreign, and therefore unintelligible, language. Here is also another apex form, with symmetry as the verticals rise towards the center of the painting.
Stevovich is fond of painting throngs in public places. The public arena allows him to explore formal composition and repetition of color and form, while also permitting different points of view, since his figures frequently look in different directions. In Subway Station (fig. ) "[T]he pattern is made up of people themselves. Blanketing the entire surface of the painting, most of the faces are the same size and turned in the same three-quarters direction, a sea of heads that sets up an abstract rhythm of form and color." It also allows him to emphasize the imprisoning aspects of crowded public life. Bars appear to separate and divide people in relation to subways, ticket booths, and betting windows. In Subway Station, the ticket seller in his enclosed booth opposes the huge flood of people, some shown behind grilles and bars, pouring into the subway. In a related painting, Subway Stairs (fig. ), all six figures face the same direction but the two central figures are separated from their surroundings, seeming by their dress to be transported from a Renaissance painting.
The Truth about Lola, like Subway Station, shows the ticket seller confronting the crowd mobbing her booth. Bus Stop (fig. ) also shows a single figure in opposition but here Stevovich makes the figure a part of the crowd, perhaps a lost tourist figuratively swimming upstream to seek directions. Bus Stop is an excellent example of the stylized profiles Stevovich often gives his characters. Here their noses are sharpened to beak-like severity, reinforced by pointy shirt collars, which subtly underscore the tension of an undefined "pecking order" in overcrowded public spaces. In Local/Switch (fig. ) the effect is further alienating, in that, rather that engaging his audience, the authority figure, here a bus driver, turns his back on the crowd. This is one of Stevovich's most heavily peopled paintings, and while the throngs in the lower part of the picture are quite serious, suggesting grim commuters, the four women in the "ads" in the top of the picture seem to be having a merry time, smoking and taking feel-good pills.
The opportunity to engage in hedonistic pleasure at the expense of the quieter, more contemplative pastime is a theme that links Stevovich's work with that of German painters like George Grosz. Like the decadent figures of the Weimar Republic, Stevovich's characters are not always clearly having fun. Rather, often they doggedly pursue their avocations. An example is Betting Windows (fig. ), in which the figures seem caught in a mechanistic cycle of their own impulse. Christine Temin notes of such works by Stevovich, "His characters absorb, rather than vent . . . no one at that racetrack is screaming." Yet Betting Windows is an oddly intimate painting in which the figures are paired. The figures in the foreground are clearly a couple and their intimacy is strangely echoed by another pair on the right -- a customer and the employee taking the bet. Stevovich relates to his gambling paintings, noting "I'm a big gambler in my work -- I spend months on a painting and I'm never sure how it is going to turn out."
Along with the more Everyman proletarian theme of Betting Windows, Stevovich frequently depicts more elegant gambling pursuits with decks of cards. The cards' formal properties, with their uniform size, striking coloration, and symbolic meanings associated with chance and fate, have proved an alluring visual subject over the centuries for artists from Caravaggio to Chardin. With languid figures in evening dress and bold coloration, Twenty-One (fig. ) is the grandest and most overtly glamorous of Stevovich's card paintings. Compositionally, it one of his most balanced, with the picture symmetrically centered on the solid figure of the dealer in the middle of the canvas. Even the cards are arrayed in an organized pattern, with the dramatic ace of spades occupying the central position.
Card Game, 1999 (fig. ) and Card Game, 2000 (fig. ) provide interesting and subtle contrasts in mood and tone, while dealing with similar subject matter. In the earlier painting, the mood is more subdued. Again, the ace of spades, a trump card which is also a symbol of death, is placed in a central position on the table. The figures appear concerned but resigned. The composition is interesting for its formal properties. The three card players are arrayed around the table, so that the viewer becomes the defacto fourth player. In fact, the card is possibly being presented to the viewer by the dealer. One is led to wonder if the painting's figures are experiencing anxiety for themselves, or for the fate of the viewer. The second version of Card Game is more complex. Although the pyramidal organization provides stability, the figures appear in active play and are balanced in gender as well as in composition. Again, the ace of spades appears forefront in the picture and the diamond-patterned wallpaper underlines the theme.
The sidelong glance of the woman in the trio of Ace of Hearts (fig. )makes the viewer realize that she is aware of the viewer's presence. The ace of hearts she is playing may represent the high-stakes romantic relationship with one of both of the other players. Equally intimate in different ways are Two Women Playing Cards (fig. ) and Card Reading (fig. ). The figures in both are fully engaged with each other. Card Reading carries are air of expectation on the part of the man having his fortune read, while Two Women Playing Cards illustrates not just concentration but also depicts a thinly veiled hostility between the players.
Sophie with Euclidean Tarot (fig. ) is the only card painting with a single figure and that figure directly engages the viewer. It is a seminal work in Stevovich's oeuvre. Stevovich notes "I don't think about what paintings may mean when I'm working on them, though afterwards I can see where they're coming from. This painting was made at a time of great change in my life, a divorce, uncertainty about the future. I later realized this painting was a subconscious expression of that uncertainty. . . . I've always liked cards for the formal quality and the element of chance. Psychologically, games animate people and give them something to hold in their hands, when I don't want to give them cigarettes." Since hands are central elements of Stevovich's compositions, one can see that he finds the cards very compelling for the figures to hold.
The element of chance turns up again in both Carnival (fig. )and Circus Wheel (fig. ). In Carnival, the game of chance is at the center of the picture represented by the pins, which in their shape are piled into a pyramid to reinforce composition and order. Although the pins form the center of the composition, only the operator and one figure are engaged across the phallic pins. Similarly, in Circus Wheel, none of the figures is actually looking at "the wheel of fate." The female employee to the right is shielding her face so as not to look at the wheel, literally turning her back to fortune. The wheel is compelling as a form, a beautifully composed bull's eye of decorative pattern. Furthering the element of chance, the wheel is symmetrically decorated with the four symbols of a deck of cards that oppose each other across the wheel. Intriguingly, the second heart on the wheel would logically appear directly centered behind the man's chest, where his own heart would be located. More unnerving are the disembodied heads interspersed with the card symbols, that could connote garroting or being "broken on the wheel," humans as playthings of the wheel of fortune. While the male half of the couple is engrossed with the loveliness of his partner, she is in turn engrossed in taking money from his wallet, perhaps a comment on the relationship between them and on the futility of predicting the future of relationships.
On occasion, the disenchantment lurking beneath the surface in many of Stevovich's paintings bursts into the open. Scenes of overt violence make up a comparatively small but very distinct group of works within Stevovich's repertoire. Discord (fig. ) involves unpleasantness but no actual beating, as the characters apparently clash verbally. This very German Expressionist-influenced work echoes the chaos depicted in canvases of the Weimar Republic of the 1920s. Discord contains one of Stevovich's few crowd scenes where almost everyone is actively engaging, with the exception of the central female figure, who clutches her chest in a sign of bewilderment. The bottom third of the panel shows one of the few instances in Stevovich's work in which there is overtly threatening violence by a man towards a woman. The man holds his fists like a boxer, and the woman holds up a defensive hand. In the top left hand corner, a woman holds her hands to the side of her heard in horror and an anguish that conjures up images of Munch's The Scream. Details relate to another of Stevovich's paintings: the two male figures just below the central female image are similar to those in Respectful Men II (fig. ).
The tension of Respectful Men II, in which one man kisses the other's hand in the presence of a woman, implies violence held at bay by submissive behavior. This hand kiss stands convention on its head, as the man would normally be kissing the women's hand. In an earlier version, the red-haired woman was replaced with a sinister male figure that made the piece much more Mafia-like, "A kiss on the hand that we can tell is completely insincere."  The interaction is reminiscent of the power of a Mafia don, a pope, or a king.
Four Men Fighting (fig. ) has an element of the surreal about it, as it escalates into actual violence, revealing four apparently middle-aged, formally dressed figures using a knife, a golf club, and a garrote on each other, as well as a shoe in the face, all the while with coats, ties and blank expressions fully intact. Stevovich says of these types of works, "Violence! I don't know where the ideas come from! These paintings are all swirling and I just get into the composition." The glossiness of the Stevovich's technique juxtaposes the crudeness of the events he shows with his figures' physiognomies. The painter's remark about "getting into" the composition is especially riveting, given his comment that "I enjoy looking at people, all the types and characters. I'm a watcher, more than a participant."
Another major theme in Stevovich's work is a sincere enjoyment of nightlife, which, like most of his work, is presented generally, and not tied to a specific locale. Club Durango (fig. ), for example, with its detailed execution and glazed, brushless surface, is a composite of many different nightclubs. One of his earliest canvases, Three Servants (fig. ), depicts three tuxedo-clad restaurant or nightclub waiters congregating for an event that is happening offstage. It is one of the few paintings in which Stevovich shows figures in full length, and the servants, dressed in black and white, are not as stylized as those in his later works. At this early stage of his career, Stevovich emphasized details that in recent paintings are more streamlined. Later, he developed a greater sophistication of color: "I've always felt color was one of my strengths. I always like to think that over time, my paintings are more luminous and my colors more harmonious."
Chez Lou Lou (fig. ) is an excellent example of Stevovich's inspiration from classic Italian painting. The nightclub booths designed for the diners' pleasure resemble pew boxes and the gloved waiter takes on the role of the priest, performing the sacred ritual of presenting the wine, almost as though communion were being administered. In contrast to the pleasure which one might expect to be seen on the faces of the patrons, everyone is stone-faced. The communion wine is a dry martini, but there is no riotous merriment. In the almost grim determination to experience pleasure, one hears echoes of German Expressionism. Deep in the recesses of the painting are separate figures, reminiscent of the confessional.
Flambé (fig. ) is another example of discontented patrons. Mystery is added, because the lower halves of the many of the patron's faces are concealed. Stevovich's interest in repetition of form is exemplified by the circles of the plates, which reinforce the geometry of the composition. The asymmetrical flames almost touch the server's nose, and they complement the shape of it. The woman is clearly unimpressed and tentatively watches the reaction of her companion, whose white-bosomed tuxedo echoes her décolletage.
In another night-life scene, Fallen Diva (fig. ) shows a dramatic, presumably off-stage moment, again inspired by theatrical performance. Concerned men appear as the prone diva's "back-ups," and, as in much early Italian painting, the central, most important figure is rendered larger than the literally supporting figures around her. One man's arm acts as a belt, while the hand at the bottom is disembodied, separated from the figure and out of proportion
The French Singer (fig. ) has a flavor of the Warholesque with its repeated graphic images in the background poster. It also suggests a funhouse mirror that multiplies the images, very reminiscent of the Rita Hayworth classic mirror sequence in the Orson Welles movie The Lady from Shanghai. The ticket seller in French Singer is very prim looking, similar to the woman with the high-necked dress behind her; both make a contrast to the Lola-esqe diva with her exposed shoulders. All three people buying tickets are men, adding an element of voyeurism to the painting.
Dancing Couples (fig. ) contains five couples and seems crowded with its ten distinct figures. Following the theme of private intimacy in public places, four couples are gazing into each other's eyes, unaware of the viewer. But the woman of the central couple is disengaged or distracted by something "offstage," breaking eye contact with her dance partner. Formal Dancers (fig. ) is another example of the same theme of intimacy in public places, but it is a more cheerful picture, and, like Dancing Couples, it is one of the few pictures where the figures are engaging in positive eye contact.
In Celia's Coffee House (fig. ) the girl's demure down cast eyes and submissive behavior is similar to those of the shop girl in Cigar Store. The artist is playing with perspective and he says "Perspective is not something I hold onto -- I don't want to follow it so closely that the composition gets stale and rigid." The figures in Celia's Coffee House show much the same disjointed alienation as those in Edward Hopper's Night Hawks, an emotion reinforced by the angle of the coffee pot resembling a hand in cuffs.
Internet Café (fig. ) is unusual in Stevovich's work because it is so specifically contemporary and so heavily peopled. Here Stevovich shows his usual pairs-two sets of couples, and four people in the background who are flattened to resemble people with medieval prayer books, despite the appearance of a cell phone. Even with their modern communication devices, Stevovich's figures appear to be absorbing rather then relaying information. In the foreground, the man's folded hands and downcast expression and the woman's pursed mouth while on the phone suggest a distinct lack of pleasure -- as if they had been chained to their devices.
Although many of Stevovich's nightlife scenes are crowded with figures, there are several bar paintings in which Stevovich draws captures the mood of the solitary woman drinking alone. Blue Lotus (fig. ), with its figure's fair skin, black clothes, and formal construction on a grid pattern is reminiscent of the Dutch paintings of burghers of the 1600s, while Woman Drinking at the Blue Lotus (fig. ), with the figure's medieval style hair, contains one of the very few full-length female figures, this a silhouette, with even rarer, uncovered legs. Eliza with Saigon Martini (fig. ) is a classic pose of the world-weary woman, reminiscent in feeling of such works as Henry Wilson Watrous' The Passing of Summer. With her large white décolletage and slightly sullen demeanor, Eliza perhaps most closely resembles the figure in Leonardo da Vinci's Ginevra de Benci, with a cocktail and a cigarette. Much like Eliza with Saigon Martini, Loretta with Martini (fig. ) is very medieval with overtones of pre-Raphaelite painting in its androgyny.
Finally, Stevovich has a group of paintings that might be called "close figures," as they are close portraits of few people, not similar in theme, but similar in execution. One of them is Cigar Store, of which Stevovich says, "My wife Laura was taking a seminar near Ft. Lee. To kill some time while waiting for her, I went for a drive and down near the George Washington Bridge, I saw a cigar store. There was a neon cigar hanging in the window and I made a quick sketch, just of the cigar. When I developed the image further, I made the composition and interior and invented everything that's going on around it. The neon sign is an example of how I'll abstract the pictorial." In this painting, the cigar is a disembodied dirigible smack in the middle of the painting, floating like a leftover from World War I. The painting also calls to mind Magritte's C'est Ne Pas Une Pipe, which demonstrates the difficulty of holding the text and the visual image in one thought, a concept that concerned Stevovich, and limited the legible text that appears in his work. As in Magritte's painting, the cigar is hanging in the air like a mobile, while the medallions on the cigar boxes almost look like medals. Stevovich here plays with the visuals of the inside and outside of the shop, seen through a window. The painting's plate glass windows reflects the comments of one critic, "[Stevovich's] paintings are full of windows and glass, shades and screens that accent only further that these men and women, and we with them, have been apprehended in this artist's poetic and particular dioramas." 
In Couple in Grey and Black (fig. ), the figures are presented in profile. The woman's hat brim is semitransparent, seemingly a pentimento, much like those which can occasionally be seen in an Old Master painting. The receding chin, mouths, and noses suggest that these are almost male and female versions of the same person: intimacy can take many forms. Of the bizarre subject matter in Eating Hair (fig. ), Stevovich says, "I don't quite know how it started, it just came to me." In fact, the painting is reminiscent of Alexander Pope's poem The Rape of the Lock, a satire of epic poetry, in which a lover sneaks up and clips a small hank of his beloved's hair. The subject of Stevovich's painting carries the connotation of the man as infantile. Although the couple may be lovers, there is a disturbing maternal element to the paining. Both figures' features are the same, again implying a self- involving and dual aspect to their love.
Another of Stevovich's works showing close, ambiguous intimacy is Cuidado (to be careful) (fig. ). Though the painting carries an explicit warning, it is unclear who is in danger. The central female figure elegantly extends her hand, as though she is about to accept a cigarette from her admirer, a dangerous man literally bile green with a devilish profile. In fact, the devil appears periodically in Stevovich's work but whether he is the actual devil, or a reveler at a masquerade surrounded by others in evening dress, is sometimes left unclear to the viewer. The recurring devil motif distinctly suggests that Stevovich's characters do not inhabit a morally neutral universe, but rather seek to embrace or deny their vices.
Andrew Stevovich's best work is filled with unique signifiers
that are truthful contrasts to reflect human nature. His figures tend to
be stoic, but often with sensuous features. They are solid, without truly
zaftig proportions. They are deeply serious as they go about their daily
business, even when engaged in activities faintly Charles Addams-esque.
His paintings are perfectly balanced in numerous ways, using geometry and
perfection of detail to contain the messiness of their subject matter: the
pleasures and sorrows of daily living.
1 All quotations are by Andrew Stevovich, oral interview conducted in Northborough, Massachusetts with the author, July 18, 2008, except where noted.
2 Carol Diehl "Andrew Stevovich: Solitary Dreams" in Andrew Stevovich: Essential Elements (Hard Press Editions, 2007), 14.
3 Christine Temin "Incredible Lightness of Stevovich," The Boston Globe, October 6, 1999
4 Carol Diehl "Andrew Stevovich: Solitary Dreams" in Andrew Stevovich: Essential Elements (Hard Press Editions, 2007), 10.
5 John Sacret Young "In the Station of the Metro" in Andrew
Stevovich: Essential Elements (Hard Press Editions, 2007), 2.
About the author
Bartholomew F. Bland is Curator of Exhibitions at The Hudson River Museum.
About the exhibition
Andrew Stevovich: The Truth about Lola is being exhibited from September 27 through January 11, 2009 at the Hudson River Museum. The exhibition travels to the The Boca Raton Museum of Art, March 17 - May 31, 2009. Andrew Stevovich: The Truth about Lola is organized by the Hudson River Museum.
The above text is excerpted from the catalogue for the exhibition.
(above: Andrew Stevovich, The Truth about Lola, 1987, Oil on linen, 32 x 42 inches. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Craig Hill)
(above: Andrew Stevovich, Four Men Fighting, 2005, Oil on linen, 10 x 10 inches. Private Collection)
Checklist for the exhibition
Drawings & Prints
(above: Andrew Stevovich, Dancing Couples, 2000,
Oil on linen, 9 1/2 x 11 inches. Collection of Ronni and Ronald Casty)
Resource Library editor's note
The above exhibition catalogue text was reprinted in Resource Library on October 10, 2008, with permission granted to TFAO on October 3, 2008 by the author and the Hudson River Museum.
Resource Library wishes to
extend appreciation to Laura Vookles, Chief Curator of Collections of the
Hudson River Museum, for her help concerning the above texts.
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