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 Edgar Jerins  (1958 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/Nebraska      Known for: large-scale portrait, figure and genre drawing

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Edgar Jerins, born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1958, and now (2003) living in New York City, draws unusually large charcoal and conte pencil works of tense domestic situations and troubled people.  Up to eight and one-half feet wide, these drawings explore the psyches of troubled young men, often juxtaposed with an older, parental generation helpless to ease their pain and uncertainty.

At age eighteen, Jerins attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, on a scholarship, graduating in 1980.  He won several awards while there, including the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant in 1980.

He has exhibited at the Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, 2001; Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 2002; and Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, New York, 2003.
Before he found his current metier, he painted what might be termed commissioned society portraits in Los Angeles and New York inevitably leaning more toward pleasing a client than fulfilling the artist.

Then Jerins began basing his art, and its emotional undertow, on the realities of his life and the tragedies of his family, if not directly, certainly with these experiences as the foundational element.  Suicide has been a present threat in his family, with two brothers already dead.

Jerins bases his drawings on multiple photographs taken of his subjects in various locales and positions.  But he arranges and rearranges his figures, drawing directly on the paper without meticulous planning.

Two of Jerin's drawings, The Twins and John Sr. in Sewickley and John Moves Back Home, both 60 x 96, capture the difficulties of no-longer-so-young men still trying to find themselves in a setting that includes their aged parents.  In the first drawing, the two troubled male twins, pushing forty, stand on a landing, one placed before an arched niche like a Renaissance sculpture, while a worn-out old man, head bowed, seen from the waist up, descends the stairs away from the insoluble problem the twins present.

The "John" who has moved back home is bearded, long-haired, a little soft in the body, and quite dejected.  He sits, cigar in hand, with his dog in the foreground of the picture in a simple living-room, his ancient parents small in the background, sunken in their chairs.  How will he ever muster the will and energy to pull himself out of his slough of despond, Jerins seems to ask.

While quite real, the drawings are not coldly meticulous.  By contrast, Jerin's paintings are generally more academic, controlled and without the drawings' depth of feeling. The drawings have a certain looseness of handling that energizes them and personalizes the artist's statement.  But, the drawings are, at bottom, mood pieces exploring the souls of these men, their families, and the artist himself, in a world our world -- that can't quite hold itself together.

Jerins has said, "I have always felt part of the long tradition of realistic painting." Like so many realist artists before him, fed up with the Whitney Museum of American Art's routine support of the most extreme examples of pseudo-avant-garde art while ignoring significant realism, Edgar Jerins attended the Realist Painters Protest in front of the Whitney in September 1995.


Michael J. Burlingham, American Artist, May 2003

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