Eric Fischl's Works Eric Fischl Essay

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The term 'cargo cult' refers to, …the activities of Polynesian islanders who, having experienced the bounty of the U.S. Air Force's presence during World War 2 and the sudden disappearance if their generous guests, maintained and built air strips and replicas of aircraft in the vain hope that the airmen might one day return."


There is a sense that the artist intended to refer in this work to the mundane life of the ordinary person in terms of the illusion of the cargo cult. In this sense the figures on the beach live a life of illusion, waiting for something that is false or which will not arrive. This adds another philosophical and existential dimension to the work which is also possibly a comment on the emptiness of modern life and the meaningless of the suburban and consumer lifestyle.

Many of the works succeed in presenting images in a style and composition that shocks through an incongruous combination of the strange and the ordinary. This sense of being out-of place and the contradiction between mundane or ordinary experience and the exposure of public nudity is even more obvious in the photo-collage, Beautiful Day. In this picture we also have a nude figure in the foreground depicted against a very ordinary set of images of bathers. The underlying eroticism in the painting adds a layer of intrigue that is an intrinsic part of the aura that the artist creates in his works.

In Beach Scene With Pink Hat we again have the relaxed beach scene with the milling crowd. The scene is active but also strangely silent. The cut-off head also gives the impression of a quick snapshot that is intent on capturing something -- but what that something is, is not quite clear. This sense of incongruity and mystery in ostensibly very ordinary scenes is repeated in Scenes from Paradise: the Parade. The emphasis on the tones and texture of exposed skin is sensuous but at time almost obscene in the focus on naked flesh.

His works are not only limited to suburban and beach scenes. As one critic notes; "He masterfully blends story and mood with free association, looking anywhere and everywhere for inspiration." ( Tuchman) This refers as well to his paintings of Indian subject, such as By the River. Once again the rich naturalism of the work is crisp and clear but hides the actual meaning and intentions of the characters and figures in the work. The angles and the structure of the paintings are also suggestive of indirect voyeuristic views. This is even the cases in By the River in the obtuse and obscure angle and placement of the head of camel.

The painting entitled Portrait of The Artist is also mysterious. In this portrait the artist is a clown-like figure striding at a jaunty angle which seems to mock the gaze of the viewer. As was the case in some of paintings discussed above, the structure and angle of the figure is unusual and indicates certain incongruities. The figure is depicted at a very unusual and awkward angle. The question arises as to whether the artist is perhaps suggesting that his art refers to the unusual or unnatural or that he is a' 'joker' whose paintings are not quite what they seem.

In conclusion, this proposed exhibition intends to provide access to a range of works by the artist and to explore the central themes by representing some of his major works over the years. What this exhibition also intends to do is stimulate debate about the apparent contradictions that exist in his depiction of both the known and the unknown; and between the realistic images and the obscurity of the content of the narratives that are created. In the final analysis, Eric Fischl's art serves to stimulate and question our perception and acceptance of the ordinary. The paintings interrogate our habitual assumptions about the everyday world.

Works Cited

Art Encyclopedia: Eric Fischl. 29 November, 2009.

Bednarik R. The Dampier Cargo Cult. 29 November, 2009.

Eric Fischl: Bio. 29 November, 2009.

Johnson K. Art in Review; Eric Fischl. 2005. 29 November, 2009.

Tuchman P. In the Studio: Eric Fischl. 2008. 29 November, 2009.


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