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Mark Messersmith Blighted Eden

Published May 19, 2011

Bernice Steinbaum Gallery


May 14th – June 4th, 2011
Opening reception: Saturday, May 14th, 2 – 9pm

Mark Messersmith, Summer Respite, 2009,
Oil on canvas, carved wooden
elements, mixed media predella, 65” x 82”

Mark Messersmith’s works are complex paintings of the Florida landscape. They are narratives that tell the story of destructive human intrusion upon the Eden-like serenity and beauty of Florida’s natural ecosystem.  These works are not a specific place in Florida, but rather they are everywhere in Florida and beyond.  The landscapes Messersmith paints still exist somewhere just beyond the urban sprawl, shopping malls, and trailer parks.

Often we see, hanging in front of the paintings, carved figures – birds suspended in flight, butterflies, flowers or a handmade ladder. These objects give his paintings depth and the illusion of space and density.  The artist hand carves the frames, sculptural objects, and the predella boxes at the bottom of the paintings.  These boxes embellish the story depicted on the canvas and progress from right to left evolving from innocence to corruption, suggesting the ominousness of our ecosystems.

Not unlike Botticelli (1445-1510) and the Pre-Raphaelites, Messersmith employs an intense color palette, which emphasizes the drama of his subject matter.  Depicting the struggle for survival, and the inherent violence in that struggle, Messersmith does not ignore the human element of the equation.  The ominous glow of logging trucks pierces the night scenes of many of his canvases, though he is careful to keep the focus on wildlife rather than people.  Rather, Messersmith uses dogs as a representation of humankind; the bridge between domesticity and predatory instinct.

In contemplating these paintings, we realize that although we are at the top of the food chain, we still require those below us in order to survive, as they will require us to survive.  Messersmith’s work is about ideas – myths and facts, good and evil, life and death, human versus nature.

3550 N Miami Ave – Miami, FL 33127
T 305 573 2700 – F 305 573 2722

Valet parking available