Major Exhibtion Extended Through May 31
Jerome Witkin & Joel-Peter Witkin
"Twin Visions" at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts
by Simone Kussatz, May/June 2014
The current two-person exhibition of Jerome and Joel-Peter Witkin at Jack Rutberg Fine Art is more than a presentation of two distinctive artists, who are both considered to be masters in their fields—it is an historic event. Having been estranged from each other for decades, the gallery show marks the identical twin brothers’ first time exhibiting together. Jerome made his reputation as a painter, while living in Syracuse, New York; Joel-Peter gained fame as a photographer, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They also diverged in other ways: Jerome Witkin leaned more towards his Jewish side, while Joel-Peter Witkin towards his Catholic side, echoing a symbolic conflict between belief systems that had previously led to the friction in their parent’s marriage and the subsequent crumbling of the Witkin family.
Joel-Peter Witkin, "Face of A Woman," 2004
Gelatin Silver Print, 22 x 33 inches
Yet for all their differences, both artists capture unusual, and often dark, human experiences. As a figurative and narrative painter, who was strongly influenced by Käthe Kollwitz, Jerome Witkin mixes elements of social realism and abstract expressionism. And, like Kollwitz, he pays special attention to human grief. The exhibit displays several of his powerful Holocaust images, including A Jew in a Ruin (1990), The German Girl (1997) and Study for Terminal (1986-1987). It also includes other narrative works that depict men grappling with desperate situations, as in Vincent and his Demons III (2012), An Artist in a Ruin (1990), and Crack House (1990). His psychological depth is also highlighted in his triptych Pensione Ichino (1997), which is based on his memory of a short love affair with a French photography student during his Pulitzer Fellowship in Florence in the late 1950s. By way of contrast, Joel-Peter Witkin is a noted surrealist photographer, who creates non computer driven images, which
Jerome Witkin, "An Artist in A Ruin," 1990
Oil on Canvas, 71 x 88 inches
although at times shocking, lend beauty, quietude and empathy to the deformed and the grotesque. For example, in his image Face of a Woman (2004) — which seems to have been inspired by his memory of having witnessed a little girl’s head rolling in the street after a car crash as a young boy in Greenpoint, Brooklyn—we see a head of a female cadaver arranged next to a taxidermied monkey. There are flowers sticking out of the woman’s head, reminiscent of a bouquet set in a vase. In this composition death looks peaceful and beautiful, and evokes curiosity. Therefore, in contrast to his brother, whose work engages the subject of suffering and death with anguish and empathy, Joel-Peter Witkin shows death as a salvation of suffering.
by Simone Kussatz