There are many current artists producing remarkable work, though one may never know it looking at most gallery offerings or contemporary arts journals. However, there is a growing tide of modern masters working in an artistic tradition that requires true skill, virtuosity and vision. One of these is Max Ginsburg, who recently won the Best In Show prize of $10,000 for the 2010/1011 Salon Competition bestowed by the Art Renewal Center for his stunning War Pieta.
First, a word about The Art Renewal Center (ARC), created in 2000 by a group of artists, art collectors, historians, and enthusiasts. The ARC advocates standards of craftsmanship and excellence while maintaining a virtual museum with over 63,000 images in its library – a treasure trove for the serious art student or connoisseur. ARC’s Salon Competition seeks to recognize modern masters of drawing, color, form, vision, light and composition. As Kara Ross, ARC Director of Operations, writes about the awards this year: “Nothing says more about a culture then the art it idolizes. It represents what it values, what it thinks about, and essentially what it deems worth remembering. Art is the representation of a people, encapsulating its essence on every level. The artists participating in this competition are helping to bring the culture back to its most important root, its humanity.” The ARC can be found at: www.artrenewal.org.
Max Ginsburg was born in Paris (his parents were travelling) in 1931. His father was portrait painter Abraham Ginsburg. Max came of age during a dark period of American art, when a market-driven modernist establishment actively devalued the place of both representational art and of beauty. He worked for many years as an illustrator while painting pictures depicting life in New York with a raw energy and a keen eye for detail.
One of the many canards that the modernist establishment hurls at real artists is that the beau arts tradition is played out, that is has nothing left to say because it deals mostly in trite, idealized images. This puffery is easily dismissed by reality and a quick survey of much of the contemporary work in the realist tradition, which actively seeks to reconnect art with our humanity.
Ginsburg is firmly in this tradition. A quick look at his oeuvre (and you can find it here at: www.maxginsburg.com) shows a painter clearly in the classical tradition grappling with real-world issues. His painting depicting the horrors of Abu Ghraib is a stunning masterwork that combines imagery of the crucifixion of Christ with the tortures committed by a corrupt, amoral American military. Other pictures deal with contemporary families losing their homes to foreclosure, homelessness, and economic chaos.
War Pieta is a disturbing image. It is also a powerful, poignant, beautifully rendered one. As Ginsburg writes on his Web site: “I sought to symbolically connect, and contrast, the image of a real mother screaming in anguish over the death of her soldier son with the Old Master images of the Madonna mourning the death of her son in a rather unreal, quiet and serene way.”
In this, Ginsburg succeeds powerfully. Ginsburg’s sense of color is sure, his composition sound and his control of anatomy terrific. Behind the horribly mangled American soldier and his devastated mother are burning oilfields, the focus (and the prize) of this horrific folly. This riveting and wrenching work is the artistic equivalent of a gut-punch; close your eyes and you may find the image still seared into your retina. The pain is palpable, the mother’s scream unquiet in our imagination, and the brutality of her son’s mutilation leaving us all somehow guilty and complicit. I imagine, one day, it will be the centerpiece of a George W. Bush Presidential Library, depicting his greatest and most vicious crime.
Max Ginsburg has created a picture for the ages.