As with any meditative process, Robert Sagerman’s work appears deceptively simple: thickened oil paint is applied, one stroke at a time with a palette knife, in soft peaks to a canvas over a period of time, creating a heavily textured surface saturated in color. Yet it is through this painstakingly repetitive and seemingly simple process that Sagerman’s work builds its gravitas, suspending a period of time and an emotional and spiritual state in his oils.
For all their sensuality and tactility, Sagerman’s paintings are not merely a thicket of color to capture the eye. As he works, the artist maintains a log of the number of strokes in each painting, the minutes spent with each color, and the total time a piece takes to complete. This uniquely personal form of meditation stemmed from Sagerman’s study of medieval Jewish mysticism, where the act of assigning numerical values to the letters of holy writings and the ritualized combining and recombining of these numbers brought the meditator closer to a state of divine clarity. This counting action most clearly defines Sagerman’s objective for his work: “For me,” he explains, “the numbers themselves are the most direct expression of my work activity; it is they that suggest the immaterial essence of the work.”
The new body of work for It’s Time accentuates the tension between the sensual and the immaterial elements of the work. The lush colors that once merged with one another to create an overall glow of tone now at times shift from one edge of the canvas to the other, gradating dramatically and creating subtle landscape references. In some, marks are no longer made in a uniform direction, but radiate from a central point. The visual, visceral essence of the work is heightened by the increasingly complex spiritual substrate buoying it.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the artist will be giving a gallery talk on Saturday, January 21st at 4pm. Sagerman’s work is widely exhibited both nationally and internationally. His work has been reviewed in Art in America and ArtNews, among other publications. This is the artist’s fifth solo show with Thatcher Projects.