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In the Galleries: Wes Hempel
For decades, Wes Hempel has been committed to re-envisioning the depiction of masculinity in contemporary art. By setting psychologically acute portraits of modern-day men against backdrops appropriated from such disparate sources as neoclassical history painting and Dutch golden age landscapes, the artist’s works forge provocative dialogues between past and present.
The current body of work continues this longstanding practice of combining art historical elements with contemporary figures. The paintings are linked to the past both in their subject matter and their surface qualities. Even when they aren't quoting specific art historical references, the paintings have a traditional look, as if they were produced in another era. The figures, upon close inspection, however, reveal that these are indeed contemporary work. Hempel has actively cultivated this traditional look for a number of reasons. One of his ongoing projects is a re-visioning of what art history might have looked like had homosexuality not been vilified.