For over forty years, David Ligare has been making paintings that conceptually link ancient Greek philosophy to contemporary social needs. Through established painting tropes like the figure and the landscape, Ligare has been embedding tenets of Plato and Aristotle within deftly painted scenes allegorizing social issues such as literacy and homelessness. With Still Life, the artist continues his thesis by giving new meaning and a new history to that eponymous genre. Hirschl & Adler Modern is honored to present these 16 recent paintings by David Ligare, in his third solo exhibition with the gallery.
Central to the paintings in Still Life is the late afternoon sunlight, whose clarity essentializes the objects on display to create moments of profound stillness. Consider the calm of Still Life with Figs, Pomegranate, and Rose, in which every object falls into place as if they only exist, or will ever exist, in that exact location. That ease of ontology is supported by a major theme of Ligare’s work, balance. Outside of the philosophical meaning of the word, a balanced composition is also the artist’s true aim. This is evident in works like Still Life with Lemons and Pot where Ligare slyly lifts the tablecloth to avoid the composition from toppling over, or in Still Life with Apricots, Wheat and Poppies (Offering) with wheat and flowers precariously balanced on the basket of fruit. As stillness and balance give each object its reason to be, it is that late-day sun which bathes everything in a unifying light. Each flower, fruit and pot take center stage in brilliant half-light while their long shadows merge; a visual metaphor for the interconnectedness of all things. The artist writes, “Light, most particularly sunlight, has occupied my eye, mind, and hand throughout my entire career. There is an essential truth to sunlight, perhaps the central truth.”
The choice of still life as subject matter is hardly trivial. No genre is perhaps better suited for Ligare’s use of allegory and symbolism. Deceptively simple, these paintings are laden with meaning and reference. Each is a push in the artist’s lifelong call for a renewed passion for knowledge, a message which feels timelier each day. In the complex world we presently find ourselves, advocacy for Stillness, Balance and Truth represents a clear way forward.