The private opening reception of the latest collection from pop easel artist Stanley Ralph Maurer was created of almost as many layers of wonderful stories as it was by the layers of mediums Mr. Maurer used in creating his artwork entitled “Icons of the 20th Century.” This evening was a select show of his series “Music Icons of the 20th Century,” with the entire collection of “Icons of the 20th Century” consisting of more than 200 pieces of artwork.
Expecting the “usual” art opening and reception, this was an event that ended up being a story in and of itself. The evening was not only a display of the exceptional and enduring talent of Mr. Maurer but also the enduring and endless friendship between him and his longtime friend and patron of the evening, respected actor Alan Rich. The tone of the evening was set immediately upon arriving. In a courtyard with a backdrop made of beautiful olive trees and gentle lighting, there was the soft sound of intoxicating music being played. Creating this musical ambiance of grace and elegance was Grammy Award-winning bassist Stanley Clarke — one of Mr. Maurer’s subjects who, along with his peers, were being presented on canvas this evening. Meeting Mr. Maurer and Mr. Rich immediately following Mr. Clarke’s performance was just a wonderful and refreshing taste of cordiality and easy banter, created by these two gentlemen who are familiar with success and comfortable being themselves.
This collection of wonderfully unique pieces is possible by the fact that Mr. Maurer captured the essence of each performer and his or her persona with it being instantly recognizable and also providing some great memories of those who are no longer performing. Miles Davis’ image is the signature piece of the 30 jazz, pop, and classical icons whose original portraits are on display. This evening’s exhibit included Davis, Stanley Clarke, Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, The Beatles, Edith Piaf, Luciano Pavarotti, Billie Holiday, k.d. Lang, Leonard Bernstein, Johnny Cash, David Bowie, Maria Callas, Arthur Rubinstein, and Vladimir Horowitz — some the greatest influences on contemporary music no matter what musical genre suits your taste. This assemblage of musical greats on canvas provided a warm blanket of memories for the guests without being melancholy or wistful. There is an energy about Mr. Maurer’s artwork that supersedes the banal as it presents the essence of greatness of each performer.
When I asked Mr. Maurer about his technique and process, he graciously offered me a seat for a lovely chat. I asked him if he listened to the artist as he worked on a portrait. He doesn’t. He listens before, he listens after, but while he’s working, he doesn’t want any distractions to interfere with his own creative process. This process is as individual as the pieces themselves, and includes using various mediums and techniques. There are acrylics, dyes, typeface, brushes, fingers and, finally, sometimes even spit. Upon hearing that, we had a lengthy discussion of the work of 16 artists and what elements they mixed with their pigments to create their working medium. Although fascinating, that’s a story of another kind. Maybe the next exhibit.
Mr. Maurer’s further “Icons” series will be unveiled at various shows at well-known galleries and venues around the country, most notably a show featuring film icons at the SAG Foundation’s Los Angeles headquarters on November 12, 2010, and a retrospective exhibit in March 2011 hosted by the renowned Rienzo Gallery in New York.
This exhibition is open free to the public from at the West Gallery in the Art and Design Center of the California State University Northridge (CSUN). “Music Icons of the 20th Century” will run through October 30, 2010. The West Gallery is open Mondays through Saturdays noon-4:00 p.m., Thursdays until 8:00 p.m.; closed Sundays and holidays.