Whitehot Magazine

July 2009, Jennifer Nehrbass and Todd Hebert

July 2009, Jennifer Nehrbass and Todd Hebert
Honeycomb (2009) 36 x 30 inches oil on canvas


Jennifer Nehrbass and Todd Hebert are two artists whose works will be on exhibition at the Mark Moore Gallery in Santa Monica, California from July 11 - August 15, 2009. Jennifer’s exhibition is entitled, “Weep And Wonder,” which continues her commentary on the female body as an object of fashion and style through her new cameo paintings. The cameos draw focus to the finer, distasteful and unflattering, details of the women presented in these paintings. Todd’s exhibition, “City and Country,” explores a photorealistic surrealism that gives the casual observer a false impression of a simple and mundane photographic capture of everyday objects. These captures, however, can draw the observer into the painting, when given a closer look. I recently had the pleasure of chatting online with these two amazing artists.
WM: How was it that you both became involved in this set coinciding solo exhibitions?
TH: Mark Moore Gallery has a larger and smaller space. Artists have opportunities to show in each one.
JN: I had originally been slotted for another month, but the scale of the work, and timing, was better in the project room. I believe I am the last exhibition in that space.
TH: Yeah, there will only be the main space come August 2009.
WM: Have you both presented works at this gallery before?
JN: Yes, my last show was in September 2007.
TH: I have been represented by Mark Moore for about 10 years.
WM: I kind of want to get into a bit more about you guys individually, now. So, I'll try to alternate questions so as not to bore either of you.
TH: Sounds good.
JN: I have never talked to Todd before, I am curious what you will say!
WM: Jennifer, I understand that your work is more of a social commentary?
JN: Yes. I guess that is the baseline of why I paint, but not the only concern. There is the element of painting the things I enjoy, and the use of humor, horror, color, texture.
WM: Todd, I read that you are really into jotting down quotes by sports announcers? How much does that influence what you do? I was wondering how Vin Skully inspires snowmen.
TH: Like any other person, I jot down stuff that interests me or is funny. It just happens that being a sports fan, you hear a lot of good quotes and whatnot. What Vin has to do with snowmen I don't know, but there is a sort of broad appeal that he has and he's been known to quote writers, philosophers and poets during a broadcast. So, that mix of novelty and convention could link the two in the places they are experienced or enjoyed.
WM: Jennifer, in your current exhibition, you are showing, what you call, cameos. What is the motivation behind the juxtaposition of portraits of women with what feels like an unusual and somewhat disconcerting background in regard to the woman in the foreground?
JN: They are not only the shape of the traditional cameo but are meant to have the separation of figure-ground relationship, the study in contrasts. The backgrounds were created specifically for each figure to help heighten the sense of drama. "Snake in the Grass," remained solid to emphasize the isolation of the figure and to create focus on the eyes. “Typhoon Odessa,” has an urban landscape but colors of the figure and background are almost neoclassical. They are more about atmosphere, than a particular place, which allows the viewer to focus on the figures. I choose a specific palette of the secondary colors of green/purple/orange, as a limitation to create a cohesive series.
WM: Would you say that it creates a greater emphasis on the details of the figure?
JN: Yes. The details of the figure, as well as how the figure is lit. The lighting on the women becomes the third protagonist in the work.
WM: Todd, I wanted to talk a bit about your relationship with the audience. When you create your work, do you think "This is just to please myself," or do you think, "Who is my audience? Can they relate to what I am doing?" Or is it something completely different?
TH: I figure that, if I like it and find it interesting, someone else out there is bound to as well. But, I do say I suffer from a bit of a "populist complex," where I would like many kinds of people to get something from the work, or find delight in looking at it. The fact that I make pictures helps.
JN: I am a fan.
TH: Thanks.
WM: Why do you say you suffer from a "populist complex," is it received by other artists in a somewhat negative light?
TH: The contemporary commercial fine art world is not really geared to accept a general public. So, there are some that may see a popular bent as a detriment. Luckily, Jennifer is not one of them.
WM: I agree. On the subject of audience, Jennifer, I think I read something about you exploring the idea of women posing for women. And considering your social critique of the female body as a commodity, do you think your approach alienates people who don't readily identify as a woman?
JN: We all feel pain, joy, embarrassment, confinement, sorrow, prejudices and power. Throughout history women have enjoyed viewing other women, whether it’s an Ingres or flipping through Vogue. What I explore is the obsession with material culture and beauty that can create hysteria and distraction. I focus on the female figure because I use myself as the model (a nod to Cindy Sherman); I create characters to illustrate an idea. I feel it is more honest to use myself rather than use another to critique.
WM: Todd, your use of blur plays a major role in your art. I found it interesting, looking at some of your work, how in one sense I am seeing one thing in the background - such as in your snowmen paintings - and yet I can't help what is right in front of me. What are you trying to achieve through this method? What are you looking to evoke from someone who stops in front of your paintings in the gallery?
TH: Hopefully the work stimulates some sort of involuntary response to look longer. The push-pull that is created by the sharp focus of, say, a bubble in front of the blurry snowman, is an instant space maker. And this aspect, teamed up with the composition and the edges of the canvas, can carry eyes across the surface making use of everything painted pictures have to offer. I also hope that people consider all this optical and visual stuff when recognizing the imagery. I want people to say "What is that?" "I see what that is!" "Wait...what the hell is this?"
WM: Will both of you be at the exhibitions’ reception on July 11?
JN: Yes I will be there.
TH: I'll be there.
WM: Awesome. What sort of prospects does the future hold for both of you?
TH: I have a show with Jack Shainman Gallery coming up in February 2010 and a couple of group shows in between. Hopefully, some art fairs.
JN: Hopefully, one full of great inspiration and a few sales as well. I have a few group shows to iron out, and one group show in museum in January 2010.
WM: Well, thanks to both of you for making time to talk. I really enjoy both of your work.
JN: Thanks for the interview.
TH: Thank you, I'm glad you like the work.
JN: See you in LA, Todd.
TH: Sounds good. Thanks for the opportunity...yes see you in LA, Jennifer!
The opening reception will be Saturday July 11 from 5-6 pm at the gallery. You can find out more information at the gallery’s web site: www.markmooregallery.com


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Veronica Paez for WM New York

Veronica Paez is a writer in New York.

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