June 21, 2015 (Newark, New Jersey) — On July 16, 2015, Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art will present large-scale works by internationally-renowned realist painter Mel Leipzig. In an illustrious 40-year career, the artist has been dedicated to the figure painted directly from life. As They Are: Portraits by Mel Leipzig focuses on the characteristic informality of his subject against a backdrop of architectural detail and highly skewed perspective, utilizing a limited palette. His “environmental portraits” are at once disconcertingly familiar and unfamiliar.
“When most of us meet a new person or visit a new location, we are focused solely on the moment. For artist Mel Leipzig, those same interactions elicit ideas — subjects to be captured, places to be recorded, visual space to be explored and reinterpreted. These forays into the private and professional worlds of family, friends, colleagues, art world acquaintances and others, fill Leipzig’s creative consciousness,” says Acting Director and Curator of the NJ State Museum Margaret O’Reilly. “From these initial moments have come painted images that, while based in reality, cause the viewer to rethink the relationship of the human form to the place and space it inhabits.”
Born in Brooklyn in 1935, Leipzig lives and works in his studio in Trenton, NJ. A retired professor of painting and art history at Mercer County Community College, he has had over 40 solo exhibitions at museums and art centers throughout the country, including a retrospective at the New Jersey State Museum in 1998. In 2009, he was the subject of two exhibitions at the New Jersey State Museum: Mel Leipzig, Selected Paintings, a selection of his paintings completed in the first decade of the 21st Century, curated by Margaret O’Reilly. The second, Mel Leipzig, The Artist as Curator, was an exhibition of figurative paintings of artists in the museum’s collection curated by the Leipzig.
“He is a painter of modern life. He paints, as artist and curator, Carl Hazlewood once said, ‘rooms’—all the stuff that makes up a person’s home or workplace. More often than not, that makes a truer portrait,” noted art critic Dan Bischoff.
During his exhibition at Aljira, Leipzig will paint from a model in the gallery and invite others to paint and draw, uninterrupted, alongside him. An artist talk in conversation with independent curator Dexter Wimberly will be presented at Aljira on August 1.
As They Are: Portraits by Mel Leipzig
July 16–September 5, 2015
Opening Reception: July 16, 2015, 6–9pm
About Mel Leipzig
Leipzig’s works are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Academy Museum and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City. In New Jersey his paintings are in the collection of the New Jersey State Museum, the Montclair Art Museum, the Morris Museum and the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University. In Pennsylvania, his paintings are in the collections of the Woodmere Art Museum and the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania which purchased his painting Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. In Massachusetts, his paintings are in the collections of the Cape Cod Museum of Art and the Provincetown Art Association Museum. In 2003 the American Academy of Arts and Letters purchased his painting Bernarda Shahn and donated it to the Springville Museum of Art in Utah.
Leipzig received a Fulbright Grant to Paris (1958–59), a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (1959–60), and four grants for painting from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (1982, 1986, 1992, 2002). In 1980 he was the first recipient of the Mercer County Community College Distinguished Teacher Award Gold Medal and in 1996 was one of the last individual artists to receive a National Endowment for the Arts grant. In 2000 and 2002 he received awards for his paintings from the National Academy, NYC. He studied at The Cooper Union under Nicholas Marsicano, Morris Kantor, Will Barnet and Neil Welliver; Yale University, School of Art & Architecture (BFA) under Josef Albers and James Brooks; and Pratt Institute (MFA) under Nan Benedict, Ralph Wickiser and George McNeill.
In 2006 Mel Leipzig was elected to the National Academy. In 2014 he was one of the artists included in Deborah Forman’s book - Contemporary Cape Cod Artists, People & Places. He is one of 7 painters included in the book Selected Contemporary Figurative Painters, published in 2010 by the Tianjin People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, Qimin Liu editor, which introduces contemporary American realist painting to the Chinese audience. In October 2015, he will be traveling, as part of an artist exchange, to Shandong Province in China.
Leipzig is represented by Gallery Henoch, New York.
Upcoming Aljira Event
A World Premiere Performance
Sunday, July 19 at 7:00pm
Homage to a King
A Dramatic Oratorio Composed by Julius Williams
With Kevin Maynor Singing the Role of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Homage to a King is an opera based on the historic "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered on April 4, 1967, by Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King, who had become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, was at odds with the United States militaristic foreign policy. At a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned About Viet Nam, held at Riverside Church, New York, he denounced the U.S. as the greatest source of violence in the world.
Maestro Julius Williams has set moments of Dr. King’s Riverside Church speech to music, to be sung by American bass Kevin Maynor accompanied by two French horns, two trombones and bass voice. Tickets are $20.
Tickets can be ordered online now at www.aljira.ecrater.com or at the door (6:45 – 7:00pm) before the 7:00 performance.
About Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art
Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art fosters excellence in the visual arts through exhibitions and educational programs that serve as catalysts for inclusiveness and diversity, promote cross-cultural dialog, and enable us to better understand the time in which we live. Public understanding and support of the visual arts are strengthened through collaboration and community-based educational programming. Aljira seeks out the work of emerging and underrepresented artists and brings the work of more established artists to our community. Through the visual arts Aljira bridges racial, cultural and ethnic divides and enriches the lives of individuals.
Aljira’s operations and programs are made possible, in part, by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, New Jersey Cultural Trust, Kenneth Aidekman Family Foundation, Bank of America, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Edison Properties Newark Foundation, Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, Joan Mitchell Foundation, Lambent Foundation, MCJ Amelior Foundation, Merrill Lynch, Newark Downtown District, The New York Community Trust, Pharmachem Laboratories, Inc, PNC Bank, Prudential Financial, The Prudential Foundation, PSE&G Foundation, The Turrell Fund, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and many generous individual contributors.
Aljira is located at 591 Broad Street in downtown Newark. For directions visit our website at www.aljira.org. The Center is open Wednesday through Friday, 12–6 pm and Saturday, 11 am–4pm. Phone 973 622-1600, fax 973 622-6526, www.aljira.org. Follow Aljira on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aljira; on Tumblr: www.aljirablog.tumblr.com and Twitter: www.twitter.com/aljiratweets.