Aaron Bohrod, Sid Deutsch Gallery, New York City (1980s)



 Aaron Bohrod has been a major practitioner of still-life for many years. "A Game of Pears" emphasizes an array of ceramic pears placed on worm-eaten wall pane1ling, setting up an effective relationship of natural decay and the strange, glossy "immortality" of a kind granted products of kitsch manufacture. Like most of Bohrod's paintings, the pears are arranged on a two-dimensional surface, compositionally united in this instance by strands of connecting ribbon like earlier trompe l'oeil painters.


 "The Seaside," one of few works with relatively deep space, becomes a tableau of oceanrelated debris painted in a somewhat comic strip style. Seahorses, fish skeletons, seagulls, snail shells, mermaids, Coke bottles and even Donald Duck--all glistening figurines deposited on a wood grain surface before an old boat house on pilings--symbolize the hopelessly drenching bad taste and superficiality of modern life. The most humanly genuine— and most important— element in the painting is a reproduction of a lute-playing Renaissance angel in the sky looking broodingly down upon what man has made of his world.


 It must be said that an artist's choice of superficial still-life objects tends to diminish the importance and profundity of a painting as an aesthetic, expressive entity. Too many gewgaws, plastic statuettes of comic book characters, and other mediocre products of popular culture limit the expressive, fine art possibilities found in more timeless objects of nature and man-made design. The superficiality and artifice of the shape, form, color and design of such objects automatically transfers artifice and inconsequentiality to the finished painting.


 One might believe that it is not what you paint, but how well you paint it, that matters. But the artifice of jokey, hokey, superficial still-life objects—like Pop Art paintings copied from photographs of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Mickey Mouse--whether painted with flair or not, corrupts the resulting art work, diluting the ultimate seriousness and meaning the artist and his painting may seek to achieve.


 If Bohrod's still-life objects are compared with those used in still-lifes by Paul Cezanne, for example---fruit, flowers, pots, patterned fabric, platters, skulls...even his famous plaster cupid statue—the latter are elemental, serious things of life, closer to nature, and timeless in human experience. The latter artist's painting, "The Black Clock," contains simple, timeless objects...a clock, lemon, cup and saucer, vase, rumpled white cloth and a sea shell. But what a difference in the way Cezanne and Bohrod paint a sea shell, or anything, for that matter.


 Seashells can be kitschy, tricky, pretty, sentimental and illustrational in still-lifes, especially when painted with the gleaming, glassy surface and photographic detail that Bohrod tends to use. But Cezanne's shell is monumental in the massiveness of its form, robustness of paint application and symbolic and emotional expressiveness.


 How an artist paints his pictures is a direct reflection of his profundity, character, attitude, abilities and understanding of what art and life are. Just as our hand-writing reveals the kind of people we are, so does painting.


 Aaron Bohrod may succeed in making sociological points through an accumulation of kitsch knickknacks in his still-lifes, but in doing so, the aesthetics are weakened, and deeper levels of meaning are blocked.


Copyright by Don Gray


Don Gray Art  •  Art Essays & Art Criticisms