January 20 – March 3, 2018
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition in Los Angeles of the New York-based painter Jansson Stegner, opening on January 20 and on view through March 3, 2018. Presenting a new series of oil paintings that ascribe male and female figures with exaggeratedly rendered physiques, Stegner explores the inversion of gender roles within myriad aspects of authority, dominance, submission and beauty. While seemingly operating in a space approaching fetishism, Stegner’s portraits eschew fixation on erotic or sexual qualities, instead using formal elements that evoke new methods to appeal and allure. In so doing, Stegner’s practice is equally as much a critique of established norms of sexuality and attractiveness, as it is a revelation on the psychological structure and process by which beauty is ordered, sustained and perpetuated. Jansson Stegner has developed his figurative painting practice for nearly two decades, first beginning with a series devoted to depictions of both male and female police officers and then transitioning almost exclusively towards portraits of female athletes. His earliest work used the form of the policeman as a method to manipulate a symbolic representation of authority, often employing subjects whose narrow,elongated features and expressions contrasted against the role of a socially powerful and intimidating figure. As his series matured, Stegner’s choice of subjects have transitioned more towards female runners, gymnasts, soccer and volleyball players, formally employed to investigate the overlapping narratives of gender, power and beauty in the role of an athlete – one where physical agency, grace and strength are all requisite elements.
On view at the gallery are new works depicting women and men shown in various moods and poses. Using a palette of bold, bright hues of oil paint on paper or canvas, each of Stegner’s portraits revolve around fundamental formal elements that comprise each figure’s clothing, skin tone and a simple, contrasting background that brings these aspects to the fore. Each figure’s physique is intentionally overdone. Bulging forearms, biceps, shoulders and thighs run uniform amongst Stegner’s women, while his men are shown as spindly, delicate and expressive. Despite these interventions, each subject’s feminine or masculine presence remains unmistakable, if not even more accentuated through the artist’s formal approach.
Similar yet divergent from Tom of Finland’s erotic pencil illustrations, Stegner resists the urge to simply fetishize power or sexuality, instead using a mannerist style to invert the expectations of gender and beauty. Touching on Otto Dix’s Weimar androgyny, or the allegorical expressiveness of El Greco, Stegner situates his work within various art-historical legacies that complicate the relationship between the viewer and the allure of his figures. Through this provocative gesture, Stegner subverts the commonplace eroticization of both women and men, and rather motions towards a space of reflectivity where the expectations of gender are not seen as limited and confined, but rather open, fluid and endlessly dynamic.
Jansson Stegner (b. 1972 in Denver) lives and works in New York, NY. Stegner received his MFA at the University of Albany in 2001 and his BFA at the University of Wisconsin in 1995. Stegner has previously shown work internationally at Saatchi Gallery, London; Galerie Christina Wilson, Copenhagen; Grimm Rosenfeld Galerie, Munich; and has held numerous solo exhibitions at Sorry We’re Closed in Brussels, Belgium. Stegner has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, notably the New York Foundation for the Arts Painting Fellowship and Deutsche Bank NYFA Fellow in 2015; Art Brussels: Collector’s Choice Award in 2010; and New York Foundation for the Arts Painting Fellowship in 2006. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles and his first with Nino Mier Gallery.