Terry Rodgers – The Apotheosis of Pleasure
In the past few years, TERRY RODGERS has emerged as one of America’s most talented figurative painters. Thanks to a brilliant technique combining effortless brushstrokes and elaborate compositions, his paintings compel the viewer to participate in a disenchanted world where beauty, sex and money do not seem to bring happiness. In Rodgers’ world of appearances, the real wealth lies in the art of painting.
The Apotheosis of Pleasure, published by TORCH Books of Amsterdam, is the first comprehensive full-color catalogue to feature the work of this artist who will surely be recognized as on of the most important painters of the early 21st century. More than 60 works — selected in conjunction with the artist — present the full scope of Rodgers’ latest endeavour at portraying contemporary body politics. His rendering of the upper-class leisure life stands as an iconic vision of today’s society.
Leisure and pleasure are peacetime’s weapons-boredom and a latent feeling of insecurity, the inevitable outcome of consumer society’s technologies of the self.
US artist Terry Rodgers portrays contemporary body politics while playing on the very strategy dramatized in his XIXth century-like grandes machines: visual pleasure and unspeakable desire. With exquisite detail and generous brush strokes, the numerous figures, objects and other furniture pieces cluster in equal opulence following the lines of sophisticated and dense compositions. Operating as fields of semantic resonances, the pictures present colors, shapes and motives that together create new, unexpected meanings that reveal Terry Rodgers’s concerns for questions of class, gender and identity. Echoing the very content of the pictures, the compositions’ process of creation gathers street models photographed separately, an imaginary meeting which first takes place on a computer screen. They constitute impossible encounters, tight aggregates of elementary particles, so intimate, yet unable to get acquainted with each other.
Most frequently drawn to the composition by a foreground figure en repoussoir, the spectator in turn gets snared in a web of objectifying gazes, running in an endless loop, in and out of the frame, ultimately coming back on itself. Terry’s figures are pillars of salt emptied and petrified by the power of their own stare, they look inwards. Influenced by Velàzquez and Degas, Terry Rodgers’ lines migrate from shaping figures to structuring the composition; whether the setting is a room, a backyard, or a pool surrounding, they work as display windows for a taxonomy of manners in profit-driven societies. Terry Rodgers’ monumental canvases spread as visual narratives of speech turned sterile and the paradoxical unease at relating to each other in a hyper-mediated environment. In between the skins, almost imperceptible, hover the sighs of this army of bodies, self-disciplined in the name of Beauty and Wealth. However, as much as they seem to have completely integrated those models of conduct, the nonchalance of their poses disclose the body’s natural deformities, as if they were signs of an ultimate and innate resistance.
These are but a few of the many intricate dialectical processes through which Terry Rodgers’ paintings reveal themselves as ways of seducing us and subsequently throwing us back into reflective awareness. Ultimately, Terry Rodgers’ paintings invite us to give body to our own vision and start to look at each other again.
Catherine Somzé, Amsterdam 2005