DISPATCH - AUG 23, 2012 (9:30 a.m.)

SEATTLE, WA

The dance between death and life can be a compelling creative muse. Throughout history, artists and writers have found inspiration in the relationship of life and its end.

Most commercials galleries stay away from the topic, said Kirsten Anderson of Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle, WA. Anderson decided the theme was worth a contemporary exploration. This summer, her gallery invited an international roster of artists to tackle the concept of death and the maiden.

"Death and the Maiden" presents works by 16 artists. They are Kazuki Takamatsu, Femke Hiemstra, Travis Louie, Glenn Barr, Esao Andrews, Andrew Hem, Sylvia Ji, Peter Gronquist, Marco Mazzoni, Ciou, Lisa Petrucci. Also, Laurie Lee Brom, Amanda Manitach, Jessica McCourt, Madeline Von Foerster and Jessica Joslin.

American artists are based in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle and elsewhere. Artists from the international community live in Japan, France, Italy and Holland. New York City artists include Travis Louie and Madeline Von Foerster.

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"Miss Margaret and the Spirit of Death" by Travis Louie. Acrylic on board, 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy Roq La Rue Gallery.

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Works on view included a range of techniques from cutting edge to historical.

For instance, Japanese painter and sculptor Kazuki Takamatsu uses depth mapping--a computer graphics technique--to give depth and three-dimensionality to his work. Takamatsu's art also employs hand-painted figures with gouache portrayed in a single color.

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"Solitary" by Kazuki Takamatsu. Giclee, acrylic, acrylic-gouache, 64 x 76 inches. Courtesy Roq La Rue.

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Peter Gronquist's sculpture "Stella" sits with contemporary hyperrealism artists including Marc Sijan, Ron Mueck, Jamie Salmon and others.

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"Stella" by Peter Gronquist. Resin, plastic, silicone, oil paint, acrylic paint, sterling silver, tinted clear coat, 24 x 18 x 36 inches.

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Flipping the time dial, Madeline Von Foerster makes paintings pulled from historic Masters. She uses egg tempera and oil using a technique developed by the Flemish Masters. While her subject matter is contemporary, her paintings reference style and methods of Renaissance painters. Other influences are from  the 16th Century French-based School of Fontainebleau, according to Von Foerster's website.

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“The Promise II” by Madeline Von Foerster. Oil, egg tempera on wood panel, 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy Roq La Rue Gallery.

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Laurie Lee Brom's "Jade" seems to dip into Classical Realism for her portrait of a young girl. The subject seems a cross between an Adam's Family television series character and a Stephen King protagonist fit to invoke nightmares.

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"Jade" by Laurie Lee Brom. Oil on canvas, 15 x 19 inches. Courtesy Roq La Rue Gallery.

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The concept for "Death and the Maiden" grew around the painting of a young girl in an embrace with a skeleton, said Anderson. The inevitable march toward death has inspired writers and artists since the Ancient Greek myth of Persephone and Hades, according to the gallery. The concept also proved to be a draw during the Renaissance and the Romantic Period.

The tradition of still life painting as reminder of the life's fleeting nature mixed with a call to repent held sway in early 17th Century in the Netherlands with Vanitas paintings. When a young woman with wizened corpse eventually entered into art, the implication moved toward the erotic and widened the creative field, said Anderson.

"Death and the Maiden" was set to give contemporary artists the chance to explore the idea. The results are a mix of the whimsical and the ominous, she said.

"The results have been beautiful and moving, with some artists channeling personal events such as the death of a mother or of a child," she said. "Others have incorporated a more subtle element, not showing the maiden or a skeleton at all, but rather hinting at some potential action that leads the maiden to an encounter with a premature end."

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"Dancing with my Death" by Ciou. Mixed Media on panel in ornate gold frame, 18 x 21.5 inches. Courtesy Roq La Rue Gallery.

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“Black Virgin” by Sylvia Ji. Acrylic on wood panel, 36 x 24 inches. Courtesy Roq La Rue Gallery.

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The show also provided a way for viewers (and the artists) to contemplate the subject from a safe distance. Humor and a bit of whimsy were added to some of the works so the overall mood didn't stay dark.

"It's a little playful and not completely macabre," she said. "There's humor while still respecting the subject...The exhibition received a good response from people visiting the show."

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"Samsara" by Jessica McCourt. Watercolor on paper. 3 Pieces in individual wood frames, 14.5 x 18.5 inches for center panel, 4 inch rounds for side panels. Courtesy Roq la Rue.

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"Joyride to Nettles Summit" by Esao Andrews. Oil on wood, 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy Roq la Rue.

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“Maiden Detroit” by Glenn Barr. Acrylic on wood panel (cradled), 24 x 30 inches. Courtesy Roq La Rue Gallery.

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“like a strange balloon” by Aman Manitach. Oil on paper, 9 x 12 inches. Courtesy Roq La Rue Gallery.

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Roq La Rue Gallery focuses on Pop Surrealism / Underground Contemporary. Artists are established or emerging with art that "embodies technical craftsmanship blended with fantastical imagery and visually dynamic narratives," according to a gallery statement. Roq La Rue's roots were first planted in street art and grew to present fine art, said Anderson.

Roq La Rue Gallery and "Death and the Maiden" was spotted and selected by Sage Cotignola while searching for art in Seattle, WA. Cotignola is the 2012 summer art department intern for Hamptons Art Hub.

BASIC FACTS: "Death and the Maiden" was presented at Roq La Rue Gallery from June 8 to Aug 4. 2012.

In addition to owning and directing Roq La Rue Gallery, Kirsten Anderson edited and co-published the book "Pop Surrealism: The Rise of Underground Art" in 2004. She is the Editor At Large for Hi Fructose Art magazine, where she writes about Pop Surrealism and the Lowbrow scene.

Roq La Rue Gallery is located at 2312 2nd Avenue, Seattle, WA. www.roqlarue.com.

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Written by Pat Rogers with additional reporting by Sage Cotignola.

© 2012 Pat Rogers and Hamptons Art Hub LLC. All rights reserved.

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