Robert Sagerman, 51,499 (detail), 2009
Oil on Canvas
April 30 – June 13, 2009
Thatcher Projects presents Robert Sagerman’s fourth solo exhibition which offers a notable development of his strikingly distinctive work. Sagerman’s painting, paradoxically, combines a visual opulence with a rigorous, even ascetic, approach to art-making. His meticulous process involves the application of thousands of “marks” of oil paint using dozens of colors that he mixes and applies in thick, textural layers. The final achievement is an energetic work that radiates an imposing physical, spiritual and intellectual presence.
In the exhibition’s title, Sagerman points to the dichotomous relationship between the overwhelming sensuality of his work (the repeated word “on” in the title indicating this surface quality) and the more numinous directedness at the work’s core (the “in” and “into”). The latter dimension is reflected in Sagerman’s counting practice as well. The titles of Sagerman’s paintings derive from the number of applied daubs of paint that make up each work, which he counts as he paints in a manner that hearkens back to the medieval Jewish mystical practice that was the subject of his studies. Sagerman earned his doctorate in Jewish mysticism from New York University in 2008. His academic work has centered, firstly, around the historical impact of kabbalah on art and, secondly, upon the Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia (1240-ca. 1291), founder of an influential school known as the Prophetic Kabbalah.