2008 May 27, 1:42am

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The Figure Revealed

Where do I even begin? This is simply one of the finest shows to come to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in a very long time. I will admit to a bit of stylistic bias in that statement, but I still stand by it. Seeing such fine examples from this selection of superbly talented artists is indeed a treat.

Kent Bellows stares back at the viewer from behind a table choked with food – greasy and sweet – drink, strands of pearls, an overturned human skull, and a very creepy baby doll with all of its hair pulled out. In his self-portrait, he almost dares us to challenge him at his Gluttony. The detail and craftsmanship in the painting is impeccable, and it begs to be inspected up close.

"Gluttony", 2000, by Kent Bellows

"Gluttony", 2000, by Kent Bellows (copyright the Kent Bellows estate)

Steven Assael challenges us again with his life size portraits of New York counter-culture club goers. In his huge, modern altarpiece, “At Mother”, figures adorned in leather, spikes, piercings and techno-punk-pagan-goth clothing are shown in scene, and, in an inset central section at home watching television.

"At Mother", 2001, by Steven Assael (copyright Steven Assael)

Julie Heffernan treats us to lavish, fanciful scenes in which she is transformed into women of mythical, mystical stature. Her use of color is glowing, and in each of her two representative pieces, flights of birds cleverly lead the eye through the paintings.

Tim Lowly’s autobiographical work, as always, leads us to contemplate our own lives by extension. His two atmospheric pieces are earlier works in egg tempera, and excellent examples of his oeuvre.

Martha Mayer Erlebacher brings the Renaissance to us in modern sensibilities with her richly dark painting style and allegorical figurative subject matter.

Other particular favorites include Richard Maury, Christian Vincent, Stone Roberts, Holly Lane, and Manon Cleary.

In all, the exhibition features fifty pieces by twenty-five prominent contemporary, figurative artists. Don’t miss it.

The Figure Revealed: Contemporary Figurative Paintings and Drawings runs May 3 – June 29, 2008 at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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