2018-09-12 / Front Page

Nat Thomas to speak at RAG Saturday

The Power of Art to reconnect showcases Micheal Fauerbach



      Michael Fauerbach, who passed away in 2011, was an accomplished artist with connections local to Roxbury, and since August 4th, a selection of his paintings and drawings have been on display in the Walt Meade Gallery at the Roxbury Arts Center. The exhibition, which is called A Man Walks Out of a Hole, was curated by local arts personality Nat Thomas, who knew Fauerbach and his wife Ellen. 

      On September 15th, the final day of the exhibition, Thomas will host a curator's talk at the gallery followed by a closing reception, and the talk is sure to be enlightening about the enigmatic and singular art of Fauerbach. 

      The exhibition is composed of two bodies of work which bracket Fauerbach's long career: paintings and charcoal drawings from the first five years of his creative life, and then a series of very tightly controlled ink drawings from the last three years of his life. The second batch of drawings are remarkable because they were done in an effort by Fauerbach to regain control of his hands after brain surgery took away his ability to write. The selection process for the portraits' subjects was quirky and humorous, as the subjects ranged from Joe Torre to Sheldon Adelson to John Malkovich to Ramzi Ahmed Youssef, the Islamist terrorist convicted of perpetrating the first World Trade Center attack in 1993. 

      From Thomas's recounting of the details of Fauerbach's life, the artist was born and raised in the Bronx, and attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City in the early 60s. He was studying illustration in his senior year when photography became more popular in the ad industry, causing the illustration market to fall out of favor. Fauerbach switched to painting. "He would have made I think a brilliant career as an illustrator," Thomas said at a private talk at the gallery on Monday. "Some damn teacher said 'This illustrating is over, you should go across the hall.'"

      Fauerbach graduated in 1964 and took a job packing UPS trucks at night while he painted during the day.  He was drafted into the military as he expected he would be, and also expected to be sent to Vietnam, but at the last minute was sent to Bamburg, Germany as a radio operator. "What he saw were the upper crust taking their R and R in Germany, and the wounded coming through," Thomas said. "He didn't see combat but saw the jaded side of the military, and the authoritarian side." 

      Fauerbach's main career during his life was as usher and then head usher at the Metropolitan Opera. He worked at this job throughout the 80s and 90s, and his hours of 5:00 to 11:00 were conducive to working on art during the day. 

      The three paintings hanging at the Roxbury Arts Center as part of the exhibition are composed of oil on Masonite and have a thick, fibrous sculptural quality, such as "Inquiry," a 5' by 4' panel featuring a faceless figure peering into a rectangular hole in the ground. The charcoal drawings have a surrealistic, slightly de Chirico quality to them as they show architectural landscapes peopled with isolated, alienated figures.

      Thomas recently went through the archives of Michael Fauerbach's work with the artist's wife Ellen and this was the source of the art hanging in the gallery as well as 38 additional early drawings Thomas will be showing at the curator's talk on the 15th. 

     "Michael's work is well known as a 'barn painter,'" Thomas said, referring to ubiquitous paintings of barns made in rural areas. "As he started to show more, he showed work made in Jersey City which was more urban. Barn painting, that's sort of what I thought we'd be showing." Thomas stressed the narrative quality of the art works and pointed out the progression of the work from realistic figures and spaces to more surrealistic conceptions. Also a goal of the show was to give Fauerbach a voice and a way to communicate.

      Jenny Rosenzweig, the executive director of the Roxbury Arts Group, who was also present on Monday, said of the show and upcoming talk, "We're really excited to exhibit these works and for the talk to give people a different perspective of a person and an artist that people thought was a 'barn painter.'"

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