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Life Lessons
The Art of Jerome Witkin, Second Edition

Sherry Chayat
With a Foreword by Kenneth Baker

Cloth $34.95    |    0-8156-0846-2    |   2006

Elucidates Witkin's success in rendering subjects in ways both immediate and powerfully universal.

"Now in its second edition, Life Lessons: The Art of Jerome Witkin presents the insight of award-winning art critic and author Sherry Chayat into the marvelous oil paintings of artist and fine arts professor Jerome Witkin. Numerous illustrations of Witkin's oil paintings, many of which are in full color, reveal his passion for human figures in a variety of situations from mundane life to fantastic, otherworldly dialogues. The extensive text scrutinizes the history of individual artworks as well as common themes to Witkin's creations, which balance upon the fine line between contemporary realism and the nuances of artistic license. A highly recommended and welcome contribution to art book and art history shelves."
Library Bookwatch

Art in Review; Jerome Witkin
Life Lessons
ACA Galleries
529 West 20th Street, Chelsea
"A virtuoso figurative painter whose work mixes elements of the old masters, social realism and Abstract Expressionism, Jerome Witkin refers to himself as a "cornball humanist." He doesn’t shy from weighty moral and social issues. This show, going back to 1983, ranges from incisive portraits to works on big narrative themes like the Holocaust. One of his series on this image-challenging subject is "Beating Station and After, Berlin, 1933" (1989-90), a nightmarish, intensely painted triptych in which you can see and almost smell the victims’ blood as they are flogged.

His most ambitious painting here is the humongous "Taken" (2002-03), a 29-foot-long meditation on 9/11 whose main section rises to a height of 9 feet. The painting, part allegory, part documentation, begins with the molestation of a young woman on the subway; through the train's windows the glowing towers of the World Trade Center are visible as two planes fly toward them. Two more panels show, in a kind of strobe effect, a man discovering that his wallet has been taken; soon his life will be.

The tall panel depicts a ghastly Götterdämmerung of broken bodies, wreckage, flames and first responders. In a last scene, the widow of a firefighter accepts from three policemen a folded flag and the dress uniform of her dead husband, as she kneels on the floor holding the hand of his flame-scorched apparition.

Whew! Seemingly painted at fever pitch, the work comes off as an over-the-top restaging of an event whose visual aspects have been best captured by the camera. Mr. Witkin’s attempts to give the event a mythical aura seem kitschy, the style that of magazine illustration. Still, with a better choice of subject matter, he’s a painter to reckon with."
New York Times

Praise for Jerome Witkin...
"Few artists today are able to do what Jerome Witkin can do with paint. . . . Witkin challenges us to extend and deepen our encounters with, and our perception of, reality."
The Christian Science Monitor

"Witkin’s only peer is Lucien Freud."
Kenneth Baker, art critic, San Francisco Chronicle

"An indelible, pungent force. . . . A breakthrough in post-Cold War art."
dash The Los Angeles Times

"Jerome Witkin charges the realism of his paintings with Action-Painting technique, tour-de-force draftsmanship and emotionally loaded narration."
dash Art in America

"Dreams in the grand visionary manner of the Old Masters . . . painted with the rhapsodic abandon of pure sensation. . . . Unequivocal masterpieces."
dash Donald Kuspit, Art Historian

"Perhaps the greatest figurative painter alive."
dash The Jewish Journal

As a master of realism, Jerome Witkin illustrates in his art the moral plight of everyday lives. His most complex and critically acclaimed works-intense, often disturbing scenes of the Holocaust-have earned him a growing international audience. This second edition of Life Lessons incorporates material from the past decade, including ten of his most important and provocative paintings. It brings the viewer in intimate contact with the dense interior landscapes of both people and places. Often regarded as belonging to an artistic pantheon including the work of Lucien Freud, Manet, Ingres, Goya, and Courbet, Witkin's paintings range from moody urban landscapes and penetrating portraits to intimate figure studies and vivid, psychologically charged tableaux, frequently referencing seminal moments in history.

Witkin's newer work includes an enormous six-panel exploration of Dachau's 1945 liberation (Entering Darkness, 2001)dashhis culmination of a twenty-year series on the Holocaust, regarded by critics as among the most compelling of paintings made on the subject.

Jerome Witkin is professor of fine arts at Syracuse University. His work is found in many of the permanent collections of major art museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn, and the Uffizi.

Sherry Chayat is an adjunct professor at University College, Syracuse University.

8 1/2 x 11, 160 pages, notes, bibliography, chronology

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