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Faces In My Head by Robert Sumner

Mezzanine Gallery

Artist Statement

"In my travels in the valley between representation and abstraction I have gravitated toward the human head as a starting point.  What object has a greater potential for resonance on multiple levels that the human visage?  Like a jazz improvisation that riffs off of a familiar melody, I hope these paintings that start with the premise of a human head function as a jumping off point and that several images, references, and allusions, whether intriguing or disturbing, appear and recede in succession.


In the valley between abstraction and representation, there are streams of practice and theory crossing through biomorphic abstraction and portraiture running through the centuries.  The towering heads on Easter Island are perhaps the most widely known early examples.  These streams of practice have gained strength and variety in the modern, postmodern and contemporary eras, and waves of influence can be felt today from artists as diverse as Manet, Matisse and Picasso and the constellation of artists around them, the Bauhaus, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Jim Nutt, and even Hans Bellman, Carroll Dunham and Tom Wesselmann among many others.


The element most elusive to capture in the visual arts is time.  Henri Bergson argued that time is accretive in human experience, with new experiences being affected by those that precede it and old experiences being viewed through new lenses as time passes.  In visual experience there is an analogous dynamic with early drawing still seen through later washes of transparent or translucent paint.  With new shape and line being seen in relation earlier tracks of thought.  Hopefully time spent looking will bring forward the process of creating."

Bob Sumner