Tenderness and the visual trappings of our social indicators of power
are combined in Jansson Stegner’s oil paintings of police officers. In
these portraits, the artist veers away from the familiar depictions of
cops as big burly strikebreakers or sadists in mirrored sunglasses.
Instead, they are primarily women of arresting beauty, whose quiet and
contemplative nature challenges the idea that authority must assert
itself in violent and oppressive ways.
With languid bodies bent into sculptural forms and limbs portrayed with
Mannerist exaggeration, Stegner depicts a physical and emotional
awkwardness in his subjects that draws the viewer into their
psychological space. Similarly, the minimal surroundings in which the
figures are placed—whether natural or darkened voids—provide a
framework for concentrating attention on his subjects’ introspection.
These stark settings and concentration on the emotional and mental
state of the central figure draw from Stegner’s interest in Spanish
painters such as El Greco, Zurbarán, and Goya as well as the expressive
portraits of Otto Dix and Christian Schad. Stegner’s cops have been
displaced from the urban environment and relocated into private,
contemplative worlds that are pastoral, monastic and removed.
This is Jansson Stegner’s first solo exhibition at Bellwether and
his second in New York. Stegner has been included in group exhibitions
in Berlin, Copenhagen, and Munich and his work will be included in The
Saatchi Gallery’s forthcoming exhibition, “The Triumph of Painting:
Unreal”. Stegner was awarded a 2006 Fellowship from the New York
Foundation from the Arts.