Reception for the artist: Thursday, July 1st, 6-8 pm
Jeff Gabel’s pencil drawings typically feature small sketches of people, appended with a line of text that explains who they are, or imagines what they were thinking at the time they were observed. They are an eclectic collection of characters and situations, both real and imagined, and often revolve around routine day-to-day embarrassments, best-forgotten college experiences, or moments of minor personal revelation. Always disarmingly up-front about his misanthropic leanings, the artist is at least democratic about what and whom he turns his attention to. Recurring protagonists and scenarios include religion, the workplace, academics, artists, uncomfortable guests at parties, TV viewers, businessmen and miscellaneous other daydreamers. The artist’s concern for marginal and overlooked moments in the everyday is nevertheless transformative, always achieving a kind-of twisted poignancy.
For his second one-person exhibition at the gallery, Gabel will be expanding this unique take on what one drawing wryly refers to as the “human pageant”, across a number of new formats and media. These include a comic book, wall drawings, a set of playing cards, and illustrated translations of texts by writers including Stephan Zweig and Ernst Junger, a strand of his work that has developed out of the artist’s day job as a librarian.
Not letting his only so-so knowledge of the languages he tackles get in the way (not to mention his admitted so-so grasp of English), Gabel’s translations - like the texts that append his drawings - could best be described as rather fantastical extrapolations on their source material. ‘Alma Mahler Project’ translates a German biography of the wife of Mahler (and mistress of many) into ‘common’ English, studded with slang, curse words and the artist’s alarming tendency to vent. And in ‘VEPS project’, the artist attempts the melancholy - and what could turn out to be historical – project of translating a poem from an obscure endangered Finno-Ugric language.
Central to all of these projects is the artist himself, and the desire to reconcile the mid-western small town culture of his upbringing, with ‘the calling’ of art, and his love of the grand European literary tradition.
Jeff Gabel was born in Nebraska and after studying at undergraduate level at Kansas State University, completed his MFA at the Pratt Institute, New York in 1995. Gabel lives and works in Brooklyn, and has participated in group shows at Parker’s Box, Brooklyn; White Columns and Artist’s Space, New York; and the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina.