Throughout his career Burt Hasen (1921-2007), a fantastical surrealist extraordinaire, was primarily concerned with understanding the convergence of the internal and external space that occurs haphazardly in the human psyche. His works are packed with symbols, referential allusions and invented hieroglyphs. Despite the specificity of their visual and textual signifiers the resultant imagery lacks any literal identity.

The portraits of women are a precursor to the works of artists like Cindy Sherman and Lisa Yuskavage. His imagery alludes both to art history and the present. His women are distinctly fierce. Hasen paints them in strange indoor settings or dreamy outdoor environments. These works are surreal deviations on the archaic genre of the Lady-in-Waiting portraits. These paintings are about the sitters’ states of mind and psyche. Hasen uses the European Lady-in-Waiting motif with regard to the pictorial composition but his women are not passive objects of beauty.

Burt Hasen’s work teeters between magical realism and surrealism. Thematically there is a fantastical element throughout his work. This is more mysterious and alluring than dark and menacing.

His etchings are populated by figures in varying states of metamorphosis; transitioning from human to animal, singularities to pluralities, background to foreground, inanimate to animate. His ten original etchings illustrate Paul Oppenheimer’s book Beyond The Furies.

A poetry reading of Beyond The Furies will be held at the gallery on Sunday, January 21 between 3-5pm.

Hasen’s work is included in many major collections: The Smithsonian Institution, The Library of Congress, The National Academy of Design and The British Museum.

On view in Gallery 2 is Artistic Friendships (2nd Generation Abstract Expressionists), which includes work by Seymour Boardman, Lawrence Calgano, Herman Cherry, Michael Loew, Richards Ruben’s, Irving Petlin, and John Hultberg.

For more information, email or call 212-452-1094.

Gallery hours: Tuesday–Friday, 11am–6pm, and by appointment.

Burt Hasen: Allegories continues at Anita Shapolsky Gallery (152 East 65th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan) through February 3.

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