Face of The Bourgeoisie Featured

American artist Terry Rodgers underlines the complexity of human relations in contemporary society, with all its contradictions

“Savour a moment of this silence, I'll feel it. Don't be frightened, I'm not. And let this prayer slide away, with the power of language, beyond the cage of the world, to who knows where.” (Oceano Sea, Alessandro Baricco)

Young men and women with perfect physiques, at least for today's standards of fashion and advertising. Half-naked, in voluptuous poses inside overblown interiors, brimming with luxury, jewellery and accessories. Clutching glasses of champagne, they evoke the decadence of an age, expressing the indifference of carefree youth. Terry Rodgers, American artist born in 1947, gives us a view of contemporary society, with characters who flaunt their success, while underlining the emptiness of their existence, like persons moved by an obscure divinity.

“We live in the amniotic fluid of our small world, content in our prejudiced views.” This is how Rodgers expresses his approach to art and its relationship with the general public. His themes provide an opportunity to reflect on the importance of art in highlighting significant contemporary themes, such as the lack of points of reference in today's world, and in our method of depicting and experiencing reality. The first impression that a spectator has in front of a piece by Rodgers is that of orgiastic visions, midway between voyeurism and moralistic condemnation. But a closer examination reveals that every composition is hallmarked by the lack of communication amongst the figures who, though they may be in physical contact, seem incapable of real communication.

The artist's style owes a great deal to photography. It can be compared to Gustave Courbet's realism, as in a work that caused a scandal in polite society, depicting the participants at a funeral. Rodgers says, “I have taken thousands of photographs, and I'll take many more, to discover the gestures and expressions that best reveal the dichotomy between 'interior' and 'exterior'.” This is why the people in his pictures – individuals that he meets on the street and invites to pose in his studio – are not positioned at random. They reflect what the artist considers as conventional characteristics of certain social typologies.

Some of his subjects reflect Western canons of beauty, while others represent their negation. But all his figures are inevitably subject to an existential condition of isolation. They seem incapable of projecting themselves outside their solitude.

This year, Rodgers’ works have been exhibited in Munich, Berlin and Emden. When we asked him why his art seems so popular in Germany, he expressed, “It seems to me that there may be a tradition of introspection in Germany. The intense complexity, the lure and the guilt depicted in my work, may be something that a German audience is able to appreciate. And, of course, Germany has a tradition of appreciation for figurative painting. I use figures in elaborately designed scenes to express and examine our contemporary state of mind.”

Germany FW 2010