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Paul Thiebaud Gallery: Work in Focus

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This post comes courtesy of Paul Thiebaud Gallery in San Francisco, CA.

Work in Focus: A painting by Mark Innerst

Mark Innerst, Ferris Wheel, 2006, oil on panel, 9 7/8 x 11 7/8 in.

Ferris Wheel, 2006, depicts “The Giant Wheel,” a Ferris wheel located on Mariner’s Landing Pier, a part of the Wildwood boardwalk, not far from Innerst’s home in Cape May, New Jersey. The structure congers the feelings of the nostalgic, carefree joys often associated with childhood. One is reminded of the palpable thrill of riding the line between balance and uncertainty, alternately lifted and lowered by the revolving wheel.

Several years ago, the artist moved from Manhattan to Cape May, one   of the country’s oldest seaside resorts. Unlike the urban landscapes depicted in prior bodies of work, the artist focused on images of classic Americana, especially as derived from amusement parks and boardwalks.

Innerst’s begins with photographs and sketches of the subject matter. Commencing on the actual painting, he layers oil paint and glazes onto the panel, achieving an almost jewel-like, enameled finish. In Ferris Wheel, resplendent shades of rust, crimson, yellow, and white create a luminous structure that shines and shimmers in contrast to the dark background. The sky glows teal where illuminated by the Ferris wheel and fades at the edges into the deep blue of night.

The structure becomes almost abstracted, a crisscrossed pattern of line and color. Quick, short brushstrokes hint at the shapes of bucket seats hanging precariously at the upper edge, high above the unseen ground. There is no true sense of time or place, as only the top half of the ferris wheel is visible. However, movement is inferred, as the wheel continues revolving outside the picture plane.

Innerst’s work has been compared to that of the Luminist painters, such as Martin Johnson Heade, John Frederick Kensett, and Fitz Hugh Lane, active in the late 19th-century. These painters were linked in their concern with the clarity of light in landscapes or seascapes, use of an aerial perspective, exceptionally detailed objects, and few visible brushstrokes leaving a smooth surface. He has also been compared to the Precisionists of the 1920s—a group strongly influenced by Cubism, whose industrial subjects focused on sharply defined, geometric forms. This painting by Innerst certainly embodies characteristics observed in both styles, tempering the tranquil mood conveyed by the luminist painters with the harder-edge realism of the precisionists.

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