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Building Bridges Art Exchange: Zhenya Gershman “Larger Than Life”

Building Bridges Art Exchange is pleased to present the world premiere of “Larger Than Life” a stunning exhibit curated by Anna Dusi featuring a body of work from renowned painter Zhenya Gershman. An opening reception will be held February 12th from 6-9 PM.

Dramatic monumental portraits of iconic public and private figures, revealed through the story of paint, is the subject of a stunning art exhibition of the newest work by renowned artist Zhenya Gershman, entitled “Larger Than Life,” to be unveiled this Winter at the Building Bridges Art Exchange Bergamot Station Art Complex, beginning Thursday, February 12th through March 21st. Over-sized paintings of her muses, including Clint Eastwood, Mick Jagger, Bryan Cranston, Robert Duvall and Willem Dafoe, will adorn the show, which runs concurrent with the début of an official “Zhenya Gershman portrait” of Bob Dylan, The GRAMMY 2015 MusiCares Person of the Year.

Assessing Zhenya’s work Peter Frank, an art critic for Angeleno Magazine, Huffington Post, and LA Weekly said, “Gershman’s effort evokes not only Whistler’s and Sargent’s, but that from which they took inspiration, Manet’s and Velazquez’s-masters of the figure who in their own ways avoided the banal literalities of their contemporaries for a rendition truer to the vagaries of vision, and (thereby) to the dynamics of human presence.”

Describing her inspiration, Zhenya states, “More than 100 years ago, my great-grandfather advertised his photography studio as ‘Portraits up to life-size with negatives carefully preserved for re-prints.’ At the time, this was a technological wonder and stretching of human perception and recognition of self – photography being a miraculous mirror capturing and reflecting the image of your identity. 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-size portraits. For this series I used a mix of celebrity public figures and private intimate faces of my family and friends circle.

“I searched for various dimensions to get closer to my subjects: the recording of their voices, interviews, songs, memories, associations, and film appearances,” Zhenya continues. “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”.

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

“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 adds.

April Neale, an art critic for Monsters and Critics, writes: “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. Her art provokes, mesmerizes and intrigues with the sense of energy in what is normally a calm, still subject, and more importantly, Zhenya’s work creates dialogue, not only about her art, but about the life of the subject she has captured.”

Peter Frank continues: “Gershman may thus conjure the artistic manners and attitudes of centuries past, but her approach is not anachronistic or retardataire. Rather, it is summative. Besides its Baroque and romantic features, Gershman’s style bespeaks a thoroughgoing familiarity with the modern, with painterly expressionism, surrealist distortion, and even the structure and sensuousness of pure abstraction. Gershman’s brushstroke may inherit its integrity from that of Whistler, but its assertiveness, even its sculpted quality, descends from Soutine, Nolde, Munch, even van Gogh.”

About Zhenya Gershman:

Zhenya Gershman is a well-known artist, art historian and museum educator. Zhenya was born in Moscow, Russia. She held her first solo exhibition in St. Petersburg, at age 14, and was selected as a subject of the TV Documentary Film “Our Generation”, a project dedicated to searching for the five most talented teenagers in Russia, showing hope for the cultural future of the country. The youngest student to be admitted to Otis Art Institute, Zhenya graduated with Honors and later received her Masters of Fine Arts degree from Art Center College of Design.

Today, Zhenya’s work is featured in such preeminent private and public collections as Donald Simon (Chagall, Picasso, and other 20th century masterworks), The J. Paul Getty Research Institute (collector’s archives), and Richard Weisman (American Modern and Contemporary art). Zhenya participates in important international exhibitions including Art Aspen, Art Miami, andArt Chicago. She was commissioned to create a portrait of Bruce Springsteen for the MusiCares Grammy annual charity gala and her work is featured at the Grammys charity gala annually. Zhenya is a recipient of numerous awards including the ALEX Award in Visual Arts, presented nationally to honored scholars and artists. A documentary film highlighting Zhenya’s career was released in the summer of 2011 by ICN Television Network.

Zhenya worked for over a decade in The J. Paul Getty Museum, bringing her passion and unique understanding of art to thousands of people. Her work is dedicated to uncovering new perspectives regarding the life and work of Rembrandt, and she has contributed to such exhibitions as Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits and Rembrandt: Telling the Difference. Zhenya has offered numerous workshops on Rembrandt’s painting, drawing, and printmaking techniques at various cultural institutions including the Hammer Museum.

Zhenya’s first-hand knowledge of traditional oil painting techniques has led her to a Rembrandt discovery. Her groundbreaking finding of a hidden Rembrandt self portrait was published by Arion, Boston University and was brought to European audiences by Le Monde, one of the most important international magazines. Zhenya’s latest article Rembrandt: Turn of the Key, published by Arion and featured by Huffington Post, revealed the evidence for Rembrandt’s involvement with the early Freemason fraternity, bringing new light to understanding this great master. She is a Co-Founder of Project Awe, dedicated to the study of Aesthetics of Western Esotericism. Zhenya is currently working on a Rembrandt book and creating new canvasses in her studio in Los Angeles.

Building BridgesArt Exchange  |   Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave. (unit F2)  |  Santa Monica, CA 90404
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