Edgar Jerins’ dramatic charcoal drawings depict the artist’s family and friends posed in idiosyncratic domestic settings. Using dramatic light and shadow, he transforms mundane interiors into seemingly theatrical backdrops for the presentation of his searing psychological portraits. Evoking an unsentimental narrative, his images suggest a frank tale of human life. Household objects impart a familiar, lived-in quality that is echoed in individual facial expressions. Jerins’ exacting depiction of people conveys a sense of emotional closeness, world-weariness, and disillusionment with life. Jerins’ work references art historical traditions of realism and figuration and everything he draws—from furrowed brows to wrinkled clothes to wood grain—reflects the artist’s fidelity to "true-to-life" characters, situations, dilemmas, and objects.
Deeply personal, Jerins’ drawings portray people dealing with such issues as the death of loved ones, personal tragedy, failed professional ambitions, divorce, and alcoholism. Jerins states, “I am stealing candid and unguarded moments in their lives.” In The Artist’s Family (We Have to Move), Jerins portrays himself in a bedroom alongside his pregnant wife, Alana, daughter Ruby and her friend Katie (on the far left), and the family dog. Ruby appears both immune to and somehow aware of the adult pressures facing her family. She strikes a playful contrapposto pose that shows off her boots while her eyes belie a sense of angst and the precocious awareness of her parents who, judging from their beleaguered expressions, look like they bear the weight of the world.
Human relationships take center stage in Jerins’ melancholic scenes. Despite their isolated activities—from one person smoking a cigarette to another watching television, the artist reveals an underlying bond between generations of friends and relatives. In Jerins’ work, it would seem that people negotiate the past with the present moment, trying to preserve shared history and togetherness in the face of existential uncertainty.
- Maiza Hixson, Gretchen Hupfel Curator of Contemporary Art
Images courtesy of ACA Galleries, NYC