The George Adams Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by Amer Kobaslija, his eighth with the gallery since 2006. Titled ‘Florida Diaries,’ it represents the culmination of a multi-year exploration of the Florida landscape, its people and history. In a departure for the artist, the focus of the series is on the near-life-size figures that dominate the foreground in each of the paintings.
‘Florida Diaries’ is a reflection on and critique of the state Kobaslija considers his adopted homeland. Eventually settling there after having fled Bosnia in the early ‘90s, to Kobaslija, Florida embodies both a sanctuary in its “oasis-like environments” but also a cross-section of the social and environmental ills which plague the country. To capture this juxtaposition, in the artist’s words, to “reflect on society and the bizarre nature of the times in which we live,” the paintings recall classical portraits, casting friends and family as grandiose, tragic-comic characters. All are close to life-size, with the smallest panels about five feet tall. While the overall theme revolves around a beloved pastime of inner tubing on the springs that run through the Florida wetlands, subtle visual cues suggest a more complex reality. There are two paintings of uniformed police officers; one, After Watteau, recalls that painter’s portrait of Pierrot (or ‘Gilles’) the clown. In Red Tide a pile of dead fish alludes to the product of the algal blooms off the gulf coast. A painting of a young boy with a parrot and dog echoes Goya’s ‘Red Boy’, where the birdcage he holds, as in the original, suggests an unseen narrative.
The two largest paintings, Alexander Springs and Lowe’s Tubes, Ichetucknee, directly illustrate the diarist aspect of the exhibition. The later painting is of a common Floridian sight: a tree be-decked with colorful inner tubes for rental, also a motif found in the background of other paintings in the series. The former depicts Kobaslija’s wife nursing their daughter against a backdrop of dense greenery and the flowing water of the eponymous spring – equally beautiful and menacing. For all of the paintings, despite the overwhelming presence of the figure, the Florida landscape in the background is detailed and complex, much in the style of his previous portrayals of the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan or the devastation of hurricane Sandy. Though in places lush, there are signs of decay with bits of trash and dying trees while billowing clouds suggest a state of flux. Likewise, the distant horizon in the background of each picture invariably shows the transition from wetlands and waterways to a distant, encroaching suburban sprawl.
Amer Kobaslija was born in Banja Luka, Bosnia, in 1975; with the outbreak of the Bosnian War in 1993, he escaped to Germany, eventually settling with his family in Florida in 1997. He earned his BFA from Ringling College of Art, FL in 2003 and his MFA from Montclair State University, NJ in 2005. Kobaslija has exhibited his work internationally and is the recipient of several awards, including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, 2005; a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, 2006 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013 awarded for his body of work recording the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Kobaslija currently lives and works in Orlando, Florida, and is a professor of painting at the University of Central Florida.
There will be an opening reception for the artist on Thursday, April 25th from 6-8pm.