NAME: Saul Chernick
STUDIO: 75 19th Street, Gowanus
TIME IN BROOKLYN: Since June of 2001.
SHARED STUDIO: No
[Editors' Note: This coming weekend, we’ll be touring Brooklyn for GO Open Studios, an event in which visitors vote on which artist they feel deserves to get an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. As a service to both ourselves and other readers, we’ve scoured the event’s pages for the most promising studios and then sent those artists an email with a few questions about their work. The following posts relay what they told us.]
Saul Chernick’s combinations of new and Renaissance-style motifs create a slow surreality, often quietly revealing what’s off about each picture. As Saul has written, that’s kind of the point—graphic symbols blend over time into periods of hundreds, rather than tens, of years.
Some of the work presents a clear confrontation between digital media windows and Renaissance framing devices, while the others are more subtle—a Pan-like figure playing air guitar, or images made with permanent marker. There’s a little bit of video game fantasy in the Renaissance-looking watercolor The Gathering Place. We asked him about all of that.
Where are you from? What’s your background?
I grew up in northern New Jersey. I received my BFA in Printmaking at RISD and my MFA in Visual Art from Rutgers.
Are you showing your work in galleries?
I started showing with Max Protetch in 2007. In 2010 Max sold the gallery and it became Meulensteen, which closed its doors this summer. Though I am currently without representation I am very pleased to be participating in Falling Through Space Drawn by the Line, an exhibition of contemporary drawing at the University of Buffalo’s Art Gallery in September.
Why are you participating in GO?
GO is a really innovative way to bring the Brooklyn arts community together. I applaud the Brooklyn Museum for inviting its audience to experience art in the environments in which it’s actually produced, which is very different from viewing it in an institutional context. As a member of this community, I’m excited to participate. I only wish I could make the rounds AND be at my studio at the same time.
On your website, you point to the style of Renaissance prints as the beginning of mass-produced imagery, and it tends to be mixed with cultural references from the last forty years. Why is it important to include contemporary images in your work?
The past is always with us, shaping our aesthetic sensibilities in conscious and unconscious ways. For example, the heraldic imagery used in European family crests; a language of symbols meant to convey power, wealth, and sophistication is now part of the visual culture of hip-hop. Representations of fantastical beings and miraculous events, as they were envisioned by Renaissance artists, still strongly influence science fiction, horror, and fantasy films. The imagery found in Renaissance prints and drawings, though often overlooked today, is still vital and relevant. I was attracted to it and I wanted to incorporate this aesthetic into my work, which is how I began playing with conventions of Renaissance drafters in my drawings. However, as an artist in the present, I feel it is important that the work continue to address experiences that pertain to the here and now. The connection to the present can show up in a couple of ways. Sometimes it is expressed through references to computer screens, desktop icons, and modern objects. In other cases it is expressed by changing the narrative of an archetypal script; for instance, taking subjects such as cherubs and demons, who typically play supporting roles in moralizing parables, and casting them as protagonists in their own existential tableaux. I am most satisfied when I feel like the work truly flickers between past and present.