Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was briefly back in Georgia to visit family.
During the time, I saw a friend who had a great collection of local art and one painting in particular was really, really great. It was a flurry of colliding colors, like a rectangular painter’s palette framed for dissection. To heighten an already good looking piece, through the mess (“mess”) the thin outline of a face poked through. It was a subtle statement on being addled, a quiet reflection on the year or even late night intellectual conversations over too much wine: you are present and thinking but you’re a bit bombarded, flooded, amidst the goings on.
The work was by Philip Morsberger, a Baltimore native who settled in Augusta, Georgia. The now octogenarian artist studied at Oxford in the fifties, who he eventually developed an art department for, before continuing teaching at Harvard, Dartmouth, Berkley, and more. He has an unsurprising prestigious history considering how thoughtful and deep his work is. His work strikes you immediately.
His aesthetic is a combination of abstraction with cartoon craft. He uses colors to build moody patchworks that people, predominately men (and dogs), fade in and out of. There is constant thought in his paintings, a being here-and-there. The work is about contemplating but isn’t stuck in the mud about it, instead opting to reflect stoic faces that have a lot more going on behind the eyes. These are colorful men (and dogs), who are deep in thought about big things. Like an LSD trip or an artistic realization, these metaphorical men stand for the modern thinker in thought.
It’s all wonderful and feels both now yet from another time. I’m surprised I haven’t encountered his work sooner although the style did look very familiar when looking at my friend’s painting, hence the enquiring about who created it. For more on Morsberger’s work, peruse a gallery of new-ish paintings on his website. There is a little thoughtful something for everyone there.