The Westport Arts Center hosted an exhibition of photographs and paintings by the renowned artist Eric Fischl July 10 – September 15, 2015.  Fischl is considered one of the most influential figurative painters of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The showcased works were a unique aggregation of Fischl’s early photographs and paintings from 1982-2008, representing his distinct figurative style.

Fischl was at the opening reception and signed copies of his memoir Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas (2013) written with Michael Stone.  The book is an exploration of Fischl’s coming of age as an artist, the competitive art world, and his creative process.

Curated by Helen Klisser During, the Westport Arts Center’s Artistic Director Emeritus, the Eric Fischl Exhibition featured 30 photographs and paintings curated from both the Hall Collection and the Eric Fischl Studio. The exhibition provided a rare opportunity to see the works outside of these collections.

Fischl is known for his provocative narratives about human behavior, particularly the hidden activities of middle-class America, and for making private moments public. His work is focused on people – their bodies – and the associated complex relationship we have with our physicality.

As I moved into figuration, it became a far more complicated process because there’s so much you can’t get away with in painting figures, because they’re something we all know,” said Fischl as part of an interview included in the book Dive Deep: Eric Fischl And The Process of Painting co-organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the San Jose Museum of Art in 2013.

Included in the exhibition was his series of Saint Tropez (1982 – 1988) dye transfer photographs (1990) from the Hall Collection.  This series exemplifies Fischl’s sense of voyeurism and his use of water as a recurrent theme, both the ocean as a symbol of life and the swimming pool as its domestic manifestation.

There are two kinds of painter, if you like,” Fischl said to The Guardian in 2014. “One is somebody like [Edward] Hopper who creates an image that burns on your retina and you never forget it. You can see it, walk away and still see it. [With] the other kind you are caught up in the authenticity of the energy. The believable moment. Jackson Pollock, you are right there with him. I am essentially the Hopper artist trying to create a frozen moment. The truth about how it actually was.

Fischl was born in New York City in 1948 and grew up in the suburbs of Long Island.  His suburban upbringing is considered integral to his focus on the rift between what was experienced, and what could not be said, in his early work.

He began his art education in Phoenix, Arizona where his parents had moved in 1967.  He attended Phoenix College and earned his B.F.A. from the California Institute for the Arts in 1972.

His first solo show in New York City was at Edward Thorp Gallery in 1979 during a time when suburbia was not considered a legitimate genre for art.  It was during this time that he first received critical attention for depicting the dark, disturbing undercurrents of mainstream American life.  His style was in direct contrast to the conceptual and minimalist art that was popular at the time.

Fischl’s paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints have been the subject of numerous solo and major group exhibitions and his work is represented in many museums, as well as prestigious private and corporate collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, St. Louis Art Museum, Louisiana Museum of Art in Denmark, Musée Beaubourg in Paris, and may others worldwide.  Fischl has collaborated with other artists and authors, including E.L. Doctorow, Allen Ginsberg, Jamaica Kincaid, Jerry Saltz and Frederic Tuten.

Eric Fischl is currently a Fellow at both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Science.  He lives and works in Sag Harbor, NY with his wife, the painter April Gornik.

Attached images:

  1. The artist Eric Fischl in his studio.  Contributed photo.
  2. Eric Fischl, Saint Tropez (1982-1988), 1990 (detail). Dye transfer photograph (1 of 16). Hall Collection. Courtesy Hall Art Foundation. © Eric Fischl.
  3. Eric Fischl, Untitled, 2008. Oil on Chromecoat. Courtesy of Eric Fischl Studio.   © Eric Fischl
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