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Redux Artist Statement

Redux - a series of paintings based on art-historical works - grows out of a personal obsession with artists from the past. In the most recent works, I have been paying homage to their talents through the creation of “cover versions” or personal interpretations of their most celebrated works. The series owes an obvious debt to Picasso, who himself created numerous versions of the Velasquez’s Las Meninas as well as the Night Watch. (Las Meninas was the subject of my previous exhibition, and Night Watch is the subject of this one.) But the selection of paintings and my obsessions over them are at heart, personal: they are paintings that have had such an impact on me that they have been the subject of numerous pilgrimages. Aside from appreciation, I feel a personal identification with these artists as well: I grew up in a family where art was (and is) the family trade; all artists, from any time, feel like part of an extended family to me. In creating these cover versions, my attitude could best be described as a mix of reverence and irreverence. The family connection probably explains the first attitude and - come to think of it - probably explains the second as well.

The works in this exhibition are all based on the group portrait “The Night Watch”, by Rembrandt. Taking my cue from Rembrandt, who costumed his subjects and used them as actors in a drama of his own making (and to suit his own artistic purposes), I’ve replaced the original cast of “The Night Watch” with my own ‘characters’ – a collection of geometric shapes and Gumby-like ‘figures’ inspired by the originals. I have never seen the Night Watch as a naturalistic painting. To me it is all about artifice and theatricality: the subjects do not read as real warriors, but as people acting like them;. These are properties that I’ve tried to distill and even exaggerate in my cover versions.

In the belief that there is an almost mathematical precision to the placement of the figures in the original work, I have plotted key compositional points from reproductions of the piece and used them to create my ‘remakes’. This precision in the original is key to the creation of a surprising front-to-back movement and a convincing evocation of 3D space--- qualities that I have attempted to emulate.

Sept, 2007, Howard Podeswa