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 Steven Assael  (1957 - )

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: contemporary realist figure painting

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Steven Assael
An example of work by Steven Assael
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
Steven Assael is known for his realistic figurative painting.  As a child he showed an interest and skill in drawing.  He attended the Pratt Institute in the 1970s, when figural art was less in favor than minimalist painting and sculpture, process art, and word art. Despite this proclivity toward abstraction, Assael and a group of like-minded artists pursued their interest in figurative painting.(1)

Assael seeks to portray the heroic image in his contemporary compositions, much in the manner of a Caravaggio, a Velásquez, or a Goya, all of whom dealt with very complex and challenging images in their most mature and successful works.  With consummate skill, the artist builds surfaces to accurately reflect various textures and to suggest complex psychological scenarios.

In a 1995 statement for a group show at Queen’s College, New York, Assael wrote: "From a conscious abandonment of modernist tenets grew a yearning fro reconciliation and redemption for the figure in painting.… The play between the historical and the contemporary… can fill the work with internal oppositions. These opposing forces, by the way of unpredictable juxtapositions and narrative contradictions, challenge the viewer to find balance and equilibrium." (2)

Assael does not use photographs to compose his paintings; instead, he relies on observation and drawings.  From the start, drawing has been both a support for and a release from painting.  His skilled draftsmanship is evident in minute details and in larger concerns such as defining human forms and clothing.

1. James Mann, “Steven Assael: "The Challenge of Realism,” American Art Quarterly 13, no. 1 (Winter 1996): 22-30. also, see Adrian Dannatt and Steven Assael, “Painting the fullness of experience,” Art Newspaper.Com, vol. 13 no.130 (Nov. 2002).

2. Ibid.

Submitted by the Staff, Columbus Museum

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