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Avant Duck: A New Project by Martha Mayer Erlebacher
On Exhibit In Our Cooper Gallery
December 1, 2007 through March 2, 2008


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FROM 5 - 7PM

A Few Words About This Exhibit

Appearing as if from a surreal dream, Martha Mayer Erlebacher has crafted a history of modern art starring a Duck. In fifty plus paintings, she escorts the viewer through the modern aesthetic, Duck after Duck. Erlebacher is simultaneously irreverent and serious. How did the idea hatch for using a Duck? Initially, a particular ceramic duck became the object of the artist’s fascination while instructing a painting workshop. The workshop ended, but the Duck remained with the artist and became her malleable, iconic hero and subsequent tour guide to a hundred years of art history. Reused and reimagined, the Duck serves as a consistent tool for the artist to portray her understanding of history, technique, and composition, all with tongue planted firmly in beak. It should be noted that the New Yorker cartoonist, Joe Doaks, reported an online survey that found the Duck to be the most humorous animal for artists. Ducks are funny.

Through exhibition, publication, and film, our culture has selected a few artists who have a signature body of work for which they are universally known; Pollock - his drip paintings, Picasso - cubism, Warhol - Marilyn. Martha Erlebacher has the Avant Duck. That said, her own work, sans Duck, by which she has gained national recognition as a painter cannot be ignored. Erlebacher has dedicated forty years to the rigors and pleasures of still life and figurative painting. Within the plumage of the Avant Duck series, the viewer is offered her lessons of a lifetime as a painter. Her decades of labor as a realist painter ennoble this series, elevating Avant Duck from simple parody to artistic homage.

Surreal Duck to Postmodern Duck, Avant Duck’s historical joyride exalts the canon of modern and contemporary painting even as it sabotages its masters. Martha Erlebacher nestles into the vocabulary of Picasso without leaving the conceit of her own humor. She is the master of mimesis as she investigates Chuck Close’s abstract pixilation finding her own stylization and exaggeration of Closian technique. With great patience and a sly wink, Erlebacher masters each style before re-mastering it in her own tribute to modern artists. The artists acknowledged in this series have made a celebrated contribution to the lexicon of modern art. It is surely a feather in their cap to be visited by the Avant Duck.

A Fowl History of Modern Art parades across the canvases for the pure joy of seeing great paintings made new and fresh. Erlebacher and Avant Duck sidestep the money, politics, and superstar egos of the art world and return us to a delightful moment of innocence and humor. Upon viewing these imaginative and finely crafted paintings, it becomes clear that Martha Mayer Erlebacher most certainly has her Ducks in a row.

- Susan Bush, Curator of Contemporary Art

About the Artist

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