The sleep of reason

Iena, Robert Ernst Marx

Iena, Robert Ernst Marx

I have to say Robert Ernst Marx, now 90, is still at the height of his powers, based on a recent visit to his current one-man show at Rochester Picture Framing. It sounded like an unlikely venue for such an esteemed local artist. Yet it’s a beautiful, perfectly-lit space, and Marx appeared to have sold around $20,000 worth of work already. So it appears to be a perfect fit. His vision is as it has always been: dark, full of spectral inquisitors and aristocratic succubi who seem half-Elizabethan, half-Gothic. His world reminds me of Goya’s black period when the Spaniard painted Saturn feasting on his son and Titans going after one another with cudgels in the dusk. Marx, too, paints the monsters generated by the sleep of reason–he’s as skeptical and unforgiving as a French philosophe. His figures emanate menace with nothing more than a steady gaze. In his minimalist portraits of spiritual deformity he invests all the complexity into the way he applies the paint while indicating as little as possible about his imaginary sitter. His color is surprisingly rich and subtle. In his drawings the line is masterful and utterly free and in the example above, occasionally lovely. That’s in his wheelhouse too.

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