Melba Price:
Until the Break of Dawn

Burton & Judy Onofrio Main Gallery

February 27 – June 7, 2015

Opening reception: Friday, February 27  |  7 – 9 pm
Member preview at 6 pm

Melba Price creates portraits that at once rely on and challenge conventional notions of portraiture.  Sourced from images found online, her work would ostensibly be imbued with a sense of distance or an anonymity associated with gathering images in this manner. To the contrary, they often give the impression that Price and her subjects are old friends or acquaintances, that the painter and the subject have a distinct relationship to one another. Combined with soft, gestural, and exceedingly painterly qualities, her work imparts particular emotive qualities that allude to a thoughtful and deep understanding to both the subject and the act of painting itself.  In various works, the subjects are placed within lush landscapes, as if the viewer has just happened upon a personal moment in an undisclosed locale. In others, the subjects face us directly—some with eyes open, some with eyes closed.  Taking on the quality of more traditional portraiture, these works eschew any notion of developed landscape, with the figure sitting or standing in front of simple fields of color.  This provides for the customary questions surrounding the act of portrait painting, “Who am I looking at, and why?” In more recent works, Price has again focused on seemingly anonymous individuals; however, these subjects are engaged in specific activities.  In two new series, Price has focused on two groups of people—figure skaters and the intoxicated. Again, utilizing internet search engines to find her subjects, Price maintains her literal and conceptual distance from her chosen subjects while maintaining a distinct ability to build a unique personal connection and sensitivity through the act of painting.  For her exhibition at Rochester Art Center, Price will present work from her 2008-09 portrait series as well as a selection of new works produced specifically for this presentation.

Melba Price lives and works in St. Paul, MN. She has presented solo exhibitions at Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN; Sherry Leedy Gallery, Kansas City, MO; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN; Soo Visual Arts, Minneapolis, MN; and Rhodes College, Memphis, TN. Price received the Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship in 2002 and 1994, the Minnesota State Arts Board Career Opportunity Grant in 1999, the Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship in 1997, and the prestigious McKnight Foundation Fellowship in 1994.  Her work has appeared in print in Artforum, New American Paintings, and the The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Melba Price: Until the Break of Dawn is organized by Rochester Art Center and curated by Kris Douglas, Chief Curator.

Image: Melba Price, Clipped by the Sun, 2011, gouache and watercolor on paper, 17.5 x 25 inches.