Painter, sculpture paired for dynamic exhibit at Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion

bildePORTSMOUTH — Creative Encounters juxtaposes the compelling paintings of Sigmund Abeles with the thought provoking sculpture of Henry Clews, Jr. (1876-1937). This exhibition at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion runs July 27-October 7.

More than sixty years ago, Abeles discovered Clews’ work at Brookgreen Gardens near his home in South Carolina. As a teenager, Abeles spent hours in this sculpture park teaching himself to draw. Clews’ imaginative work stood out from the romantic female forms and gallant horses that dominated the collection.

As Abeles describes, one day he stumbled across The Thinker, “a very tall, scary, funny, odd, one-of-a-kind piece¿like nothing I had ever seen before or since.” Like much of Clews’ work, this depiction of a man withered by his quest for truth relies heavily on symbolism and social critique. The dramatic sculpture opened Abeles’ eyes to the power of art to challenge a viewer’s beliefs.

Echoes from these early trips to Brookgreen remain evident in Abeles’ work. His favorite subjects continue to be the expressive and psychological elements of people and horses. He paints and draws with extraordinary skill – imbuing each piece with what he calls “vibrancy,” bringing the canvas to life.

And yet elements of Clews’ critical eye and whimsical streak appear to have left a lasting mark. As Abeles has described, “I constantly seek for a corner to peel back the surface layers, hoping to reveal a bit more than a single view point vision.” Whether it is the comical musings of the horse looking down that asks “What are you doing on the ground, Mr. Abeles?” or the captivating symbolism integrated into the artist’s self-portrait, his works invite a second and third look.

This exhibition is a collaboration between the Wentworth-Coolidge Commission and La Napoule Art Foundation.

Hours: 10 am – 3 pm, Wednesday – Sunday; Weekends only after September 2

Entry to the opening and exhibition are free to the public. For more information, please visit www.wentworthcoolidge.org or call 603-436-9889. The Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion is located at 375 Little Harbor Road, Portsmouth, NH.

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