NRC Handelsblad (The Netherlands): June 3, 2009

Scheringa Museum Exhibits Terry Rodgers

Exhibition Terry Rodgers: Boundaries of Desire

by Lucette ter Borg

They are young, beautiful, very rich and walk around with their fly open or without their underwear. Men and women populate the paintings of the American Terry Rodgers, as steak fillets in Boucher’s showcase. They lay and hang on to one another in indifferent poses, half the jewel box strewn over their bodies, a glass of champagne or vodka balancing in their carefully manicured hands. They are wealthy, bored and only fulfilled in one thing: the showing of their own lustrous selves. Breasts, buttocks, labia and penises, touch unconcernedly the cheek or the arm of a neighbor, the waxed leg of a women sitting next.  Feelings of shame are not familiar to these young and beautiful: sex is like a sandwich.

Recently the Scheringa Museum in Spanbroek, in the North Holland, opened the first museum exhibition in Europe of painter and illustrator Terry Rodgers (1947).

The artist, present at the opening, looked a little overwhelmed by the attention of museumowner Dick Scheringa and his entourage. In a small corner of the museum, Rodgers signed one catalog after another, far from the party soaked in rosé. Fame is something that came relatively late for Rodgers.

As a protégé of Torch Gallery in Amsterdam the artist became famous only a few years ago through a small circle of domestic and foreign collectors and critics.

What Torch showed was wow art. 'Wow' because Rodgers' hyper-sensual, ultra-realistic representation of the spoiled and rich environment works as a slap in the face. His technique is so virtuoso, that it seems as if you can touch a hand, stroke a foot, and yes, that bare chest there ... is that one real? His choice of subject is daring, with all those nude going girls and boys. His compositions dumbfound, because they are overlapping by color, glitter, limbs, bodies. On all sides, in short, Rodgers exceeds the rule that prescribes that “in the limit hides the master.”

There were presentations at international fairs, private buyers knocked at the door. Rodgers was part of a growing group of contemporary artists who starting in the nineties, expressed themselves with undisguised realism unvarnished. But where painters like Peter Doig, Laura Owens and Dirk Skreber were almost assaulted by museums, they remained silent with  Rodgers. No institution wanted seriously to go into the discussion of the standards that Rodgers vigorously challenges.

Until now.

Because now the Scheringa Museum addressed this seriously with an overview of over twenty large and even larger paintings, and a dozen beautiful drawings. The work dates from the period from 1994 until now. The early paintings are painted surprisingly loosely with subjects drawn from the family life in the suburbs of America, the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain. And Then There Were None (1999) for example, paints painfully precise how lonely the heart can be, although the agenda is fully scheduled and the kids run to the pool on a summer day.

Same in The Pink Thermos (1994) - one of the most beautiful works in the exhibition - the oblique hanging thermo bottle seems to be the symbol for the blankness/expressionless of the sun worshipers on the nude beach.

These early paintings are empty compared to the later ones. But from the beginning of 2000 this changes. People in excessively decorated baroque interiors are flooding into the paintings. Rodgers' style changes also. It slides from soft dreamy - a bit like in the film American Beauty – to photorealistic hard - as in Bret Easton Ellis' novel American Psycho.

But still one great common denominator stays visible: everyone is exchangeable, no matter how beautiful he or she is, how long or short the hair is, how expensive the underwear is, how big or small the breasts are. If there is something that Rodgers shows, it will be that everyone desires to be seen, longs for their own uniqueness. Everyone longs for a place in the crowd, but not to be one of the crowd. And of course no one succeeds, neither in the early nor the later works. None of Rodgers' models indeed make contact with the world around them. Everyone lives for themselves, God gave up long time ago and the clock continues ticking ruthlessly. Therefore Rodgers' paintings are more than a kitschy hunting of effects, more than just a bunch of nice bitches and guys together. They show how lonely all those young men and women are who just desire for more attention for themselves. That’s what Rodgers paints in a icy smooth way.


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