Larger Than Life: Zhenya Gershman

Zhenya Gershman in her studio, photo by Yanina Gotsulsky

Zhenya Gershman in her studio, photo by Yanina Gotsulsky

These are not pretty people pictures. They are jaw dropping, honest reveals that give the observer a sense of insight and appreciation to the whole of the subject. Zhenya’s art provokes, mesmerizes and intrigues with the sense of energy in what is normally a calm, still subject, and more importantly, Her work creates dialogue, not only about her art, but about the life of the subject she has captured.

April Neale, Monsters and Critics

LARGER THAN LIFE, Zhenya Gershman’s latest art exhibition featuring over-sized portraits of iconic public and private figures opens Thursday, February 12, 2015 at the Building Bridges Art Exchange located in the prestigious Bergamot Station Art Center in Santa Monica, CA.   

INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST:

Lev Matusovsky, advertisement of his famous photography atelier

Lev Matusovsky, advertisement of his famous photography atelier

“Over 100 years ago, my great-grandfather Lev Matusovsky advertised his photography studio: ‘Portraits up to life-size with negatives carefully preserved for re-prints.’ At the time, this luring promise was a true technological wonder stretching human perception and recognition of self – photography being a miraculous mirror capturing and reflecting the otherwise fleeting identity.

Lev Matusovsky, photography studio, early 1900's

Lev Matusovsky, photography studio, early 1900’s

Today, I am working with this family tradition but in reverse: instead of the living model I am using photography as a reference to transform the images into Larger Than Life painted portraits.  This series is inspired by a variety of faces from iconic public figures to private intimate glimpses of my family and friends.

I used various dimensions to get closer to my subjects: the recording of their voices, interviews, songs, memories, associations, and film appearances.  A curious psychological reversal occurs: while the viewer can easily recognize celebrity faces, slowly these icons begin to fade away replaced by a new persona presented by the painting that takes over the original source.

Zhenya Gershman, portrait of Mick Jagger, oil on canvas, 60 X 54 inches, 2014

Zhenya Gershman, portrait of Mick Jagger, oil on canvas, 60 X 54 inches, 2014

In these monumental portraits not only the size of the image but the very brush stroke is enlarged. In addition to lofty house painting brushes and palette knifes, I had to resort to various sponges, squeegees, and even ceramic tools to carve out the faces in oil paint, creating a highly tactile, sculptural surface. It is as if I had to perform mini-surgeries in paint in order to excavate the complex personalities.

detail of a portrait by Zhenya Gershman, oil on canvas, 2014

Detail of a portrait by Zhenya Gershman, oil on canvas, 2014

These portraits are literally, poetically, and metaphysically LARGER than LIFE. Like my great grandfather, I used human subjects; only this time the people themselves became the ‘negatives’ that are used to ‘develop’ the works of art.”

Zhenya Gershman, portrait of Bob Dylan for the Grammy's Musicares, photo by Yanina Gotsulsky, 2014

Zhenya Gershman, portrait of Bob Dylan for the Grammy’s Musicares, photo by Yanina Gotsulsky, 2014

This exhibition runs concurrent with the début of an official

“Zhenya Gershman portrait” of Bob Dylan,

The GRAMMY 2015 MusiCares Person of the Year.

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