A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes
In his debut exhibition at Robert Mann Gallery, Richard Finkelstein presents A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes. Constructing elaborate, atmospheric pictures of miniature dioramas, Finkelstein produces images infused with impressive emotional intensity. The images offer visual trickery as the viewer oscillates between interpreting them as real world settings and seeing them as artificial constructions.
The artist's employment of the solitary figure seen from behind, the lonesome hero, as he contemplates the sublime landscape before him is an art historical trope that emerged in the 19th century paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, and is an element which is central in Finkelstein's work. While these "lonesome heroes" survey the cavernous spaces and sublime natural expanses they are set within, the viewer simultaneously begins to conjure an imagined narrative for these figures who remain adrift in a complicated world. The pictures provide only vague hints of their background stories anchored by these figures who appear in psychological states of trouble.
Inspired by works and events of art historical significance, Finkelstein cleverly riffs on the compositions found in canonical historical imagery through his photographic constructions. This is particularly striking in a work like Cathleen and Colleen, 2011, in which the doubling of figures confuses the boundaries between "inside" and "outside" creating an image that plays with the traditional limits imposed by the photographic frame. The image confounds the viewer as they continually encounter a frame within a frame within a frame. This photograph depicts a series of figures contemplating images in a museum: a pair of girls on the right mirror the Diane Arbus portrait of the twins they stand before, while another figure echoes a spectator within the picture she contemplates incorporating a Thomas Struth photograph from his museum series taken in a gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago, which captures a famous Gustave Caillebotte painting.
Richard Finkelstein's work has previously been featured in solo exhibitions in New York at DFN Gallery, and his photographs, drawings, and animations and video installations have been featured in a wide variety of venues. Prior to devoting himself to his artistic practice Finkelstein maintained a successful career as a trial lawyer — an experience which may itself be seen to inform his photographs. Born in Philadelphia in 1950, Finkelstein lives and works in New York City.