About this Exhibition
Throughout the ages, chairs have often represented ideas of position and power, portrayed playful imaginings, and quietly spoken of those who are absent. From the intricately carved stools of African kings and the magnificent golden throne of Egypt’s King Tutankhamun, to the chair at the head of the board room table or behind the desk in Washington DC’s Oval Office, chairs often represent social commentary and personal beliefs. As in the staging of Samuel Beckett’s famous play, where an empty chair often stands in for the missing Godot, chairs have also often played important roles in art and culture.
In their November show, CHEERS FOR CHAIRS, at Denver’s Saks Galleries Cherry Creek, Olga and Aleksey Ivanov have applied their superb mastery of egg tempera to the creation of a dazzling series of chairs, each ably presenting evocative concepts or personal perspectives. Nearly two dozen beautifully wrought “portraits” reflect the artists’ deep understanding of art history and design, their impressions of American society, and their love of symbols, irony, and wit to express themselves.
Olga and Aleksey have combined their signature painstaking crisscross brushstrokes, applied layer by layer, with highly textured swirls of marble-gesso backgrounds. Reminiscent of classic iconography, some of the exhibition’s artworks feature luminous yellow and white gold leaf that lends the subject matter a timeless quality.
Three paintings—Tulips, William Morris, and Botanica—portray glowing young women who blend into their chair’s distinctive designer tapestries, suggesting the influence of tradition upon both their past and their future. Shakespeare, An Artist’s Life, Collectors Passion, and Magritte pay homage to literature, theater, and art’s past masters, while such works as Denver’s Rocky Mountain High and Back in the Saddle tip a hat to the Ivanov’s love of the American West. Here and there throughout the collection, an ironic sense of play and fun shine through. A mermaid’s tail here, a rooster there, Pinocchio’s growing nose, monkeys, tightrope walkers and contortionists, along with a tattooed muse symbolize an array of themes.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is Opportunity. This 47-by-35-inch painting of a weathered but graceful chair draws you in for a closer look. Its pattern is complex and its style contains a hint of the old country. Red is the color of energy and passion, the color of hope. This chair symbolizes the time-worn but still golden possibility of America as the land of opportunity, the country where hard work can lead away from poverty. Many of the tools for realizing dreams peek from beneath its cushions: money, jewelry, a ruler, pencil, and matches. There is presence and absence in this image, but the promise is still there.
The Ivanov’s fresh and beautifully executed paintings take an ordinary everyday object and translate it into a series of provocative, imaginative impressions. Like Goldilocks in the Three Bears’ fairy tale, you can explore them all and are sure to find a chair that is “Just Right” for your collection! Written by Rosemary Carstens