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Montpelier exhibit explores reactions to world tragedies


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Photo by Wanda Jackson. Jonathan West’s “Buzkashi” is an interpretation of the four horsemen.

Photo by Wanda Jackson. Jonathan West’s “Buzkashi” is an interpretation of the four horsemen.

Published on: Wednesday, June 26, 2013

By Wanda Jackson

Natural disasters -- such as tsunamis and hurricanes -- and “horrific tragedies” such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks inspire artist Jonathan West’s large, expressive acrylic paintings.

What West said he hopes his artistry does is “provoke both thought and compassion” among viewers of his work. He said he wants viewers to feel “uncomfortable, even horrified.”

“Advances in technology have placed the entire world in our homes and studios, and in my case, spur an empathetic reaction to the world’s tragedies and human foibles, and, specifically, to our inhumanity towards one another,” West said in his artist statement. “In my paintings I seek to define this reaction in cathartic, expressionistic and poignant notations that reflect on life and the finality of death.” 

Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel is showing seven of West’s large abstractions through Aug. 18.

From a distance, West’s abstractions feature bold, black expressive forms toward the center or outer areas. This draws the eye and hold the compositions together.

His vibrant color splashes, whether intended or not, erase any bits of morbidity and seem carefully arranged.

West’s approach to painting seems instinctive, and the results are dramatic.

“Buzkashi” shows “four horsemen” as depicted in Albrecht Durer’s famous woodcut. It suggests an interpretation where all four horsemen represent different aspects of the same tribulation. In most accounts, the four riders are seen as symbolizing conquest, war, famine and death.

West’s works can be found in The Baltimore Museum of Art, Columbia Art Center, The Stedman Art Gallery at Rutgers University in Camden, N. J., and numerous private collections. West received a bachelor of fine arts degree from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1980.

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