By John Mendelsohn
In his paintings, Terry Rodgers exposes a slice of upper class American life with the savvy eye of an observer unafraid to question its veneer of comfortable affluence. Rodgers' realm is the art-filled suburban home and the chic townhouse. This is a world of fashionable receptions, pool parties, and island vacations, populated by success-oriented adults and their vaguely discontented children.
A sly and incisive portraitist of this privileged milieu, Rodgers is extremely deft at limning all manner of surfaces, from the material to the psychic. In his casually theatrical social gatherings, he catches, in gestures and facial expressions, the unspoken attitudes of his protagonists. Their studied stylishness, ingratiating sociability, and personal vulnerability are all laid bare. With subtle cues, Rodgers alerts us to the workings of power on an intimate level: the feigned indifference, the desperate seduction, the veiled humiliation. We are struck by the figures' recurring isolation, despite their close proximity to each other.
Beyond the critique of social manners, lies Rodgers' interest in the emotional depths hidden beneath the surface of ordinary life. A prosaic breakfast with parents and children is rife with sexual tension. A group of adolescents and pre-teens "hanging out" at home is filled with a kind of disaffected menace. A woman holding a drink in her living room reveals a disillusioned sadness. A day at the pool club becomes a meditation on a boy's existential angst.
Rodgers makes us complicit in the complex negotiation of social surface and psychological depth. Like the artist himself, we become both voyeurs and participants. We are thrust into the provocative scenes before us, with large figures looming near us and smaller figures receding into the stage-like space. Despite the emphasis upon the fluid recording of figures and their settings, the painter calls into question the very pretense of objectivity. As observers feasting upon the foibles of Rodgers' subjects, we are made acutely aware of our own unfulfilled hungers.
John Mendelsohn is a
NY Artist & Art Professor.