Robert Schwartz provides a portal into a world of emerging gay culture and social upheaval of the 1960s, seeking to expose truths about the human condition by depicting people involved in curious behaviors set in a world of his own invention. The 10 exquisite paintings in this exhibition represent the first major presentation of the late San Francisco-based artist's work since 2005 and are accompanied by an exhibition brochure with an essay by art journalist and critic Carol Kino.
Robert Schwartz (1947-2000) painted detailed cross sections of a world where characters move about in the ironic overlaps of incongruous realities. With an intricacy often compared to that of medieval miniatures, each of Schwartz's paradoxical narratives is expertly composed in a space rarely exceeding 10 inches wide-inviting close examination of his intriguing, yet revealing social scenarios.
Working in gouache on paper and oil on panel, Schwartz created what critic Donald Kuspit calls "a kind of little theater." In his sets, representative landscapes, evocative of old-master sensibilities, are juxtaposed with urban architecture. In his figurative scenes, casts of nudes play on public stages next to others who are fully clothed. The artist's wry sense of humor emerges from the tension of opposites; these depictions of peculiar relationships-impeccably rendered mysteries, averted gazes, veiled desires-become almost familiar. "Nothing is left to chance," writes Kuspit. "Nothing is incomplete." Art in America's Nathan Kernan, while seeing a likeness to the techniques of Joan Nelson and even early Robert Greene, cites Schwartz as a "prescient" precursor to artists like John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage.
Schwartz graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1970 and exhibited widely in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. In 1992, he received the National Endowment for the Arts WESTAF Award. Retrospectives of his work were held at the de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara, California in 1990 and at Seattle's Frye Art Museum in 2000. After Schwartz's unexpected death due to heart failure, the San Jose Museum of Art held a survey of his works, including 56 paintings, in September 2004 to January 2005. A major monograph, Dream Games: The Art of Robert Schwartz, by Barry Schwabsky and Susan Landauer, was published in conjunction with the San Jose exhibition. In collaboration with Hackett | Mill, San Francisco.