I walked into the George Mauersberger exhibit at Bonfoey expecting to see a passel of prints. Nope. While a few prints are on display, drawings and watercolors make up the lion’s share of the show. Even so, Mauersberger has a printmaker’s personality—a love of process and fondness for drawing.
Most of the pieces on display are tromp l’oeil treatments of leather jackets (somehow related to Springsteen and the Ramones, according to the artist’s statement—whatever), like this one:
The front-on, laconic treatment of impersonal objects reminds me of Jim Dine, among many others, as in this work:
While most of the works show objects intimately related to people, the human form is not found.
The tromp l’oeil approach has been around—literally—forever. For example, look at this 18th Century French still life.
OK, Mauersberger’s work is not original—is that my point? Nope. I am not one of those art world snobs who pretend originality is the only, or even the most important, consideration. God forbid!
You could argue (I won’t but you could) that everything has been done before and worrying about originality is a non-starter. Another view (and one I share) is to take any starting point you like, then dig-in for all you’re worth. Seen this way, nothing has been done and all is fresh and new; seen this way, the mundane is the springboard into adventure and discovery. I think of this whenever I see a Papa Cezanne.
Mauersberger is indifferent to subject matter (unless one-off references hold his interest; let’s give him more credit than that). The actual subject here, anyway, is process—is art making.
I enjoy art making—love everything about it—so a show filled with art world references and puns is fine with me. But for a show about process, too much of what’s on display is about self-conscious, professional art making ( he is Chair of the Art Dept at Cleveland State U.) which has nothing whatsoever to do with actual—for the sheer joy of it, you can’t stop me come hell or high-water—art making. Too much of what’s on display appears like a job or chore or obligation.
What I just wrote is true for most but not all of the exhibition. It’s as if there are two shows here. One burdened with ‘professional’ trompe l’oeil drawings (not enough trompe or not enough l’oeil, however), and one with colorful watercolors. The best pieces—by far and away—are the playful watercolors, like this one (sorry for the dreadful photo):
One hopes the freedom and playfulness seen in the watercolors is the artist’s current direction.
The photos are mine but the works are copyright Mauersberger and Bonfoey.