SAPERE AUDE. Dare to be wise. Immanuel Kant’s directive is embodied in the work of David Ligare. For thirty-five years, Ligare has dedicated his work to Classicist ideals: Truth, Beauty, Balance, Form. With full awareness of duplicitous and shifting contexts surrounding contemporary art, the artist pursues these ideals without irony. His work is earnest and in History, his second solo exhibition with Hirschl & Adler Modern, Ligare engages us to renew our own desire for knowledge.
Elegantly painted, these fourteen oil on canvas works are generous offerings to Ligare’s theme of recurrent Classicism. In Magna Fide (The Great Belief), the artist places on the altar of the simple seaside shrine a golden sphere, a reference to Leon Battista Alberti and his belief of the sphere as representing “wholeness” itself. However, the wholeness is upset by the shrine’s mysterious surrounding – a rocky outcropping of an island, bathed in waning daylight. A subtle nod to Arnold Böcklin’s The Isle of the Dead, the island’s enigmatic character contrasts with the geometrical specificity of the sphere and points towards a conceptual duality that the artist favors. Perfection, wholeness and form can be found but one must search and strive to attain it.
References and meaning continue to flourish within Ligare’s work. In a return to the depiction of the human form, the artist paints a young man gathering cane in a crescent-shaped boat. This type of boat is still used today in the marshes of Iraq, near the area often called the Cradle of Civilization. The cane itself is the artist’s sly nod to his own lengthy career – our word canon derives from the Greek kanon, meaning measuring rod or rule, which was in turn derived from the Babylonian word for cane: qanu, due to its regular segments. By returning to the figure as subject, Ligare draws the etymological history of the word back onto himself and two disparate histories coalesce for the viewer.
This exhibition masterfully underscores the central tenets of David Ligare’s commitment to painting. His ultimate belief that we are in need of a renewed desire for knowledge shapes the conceptual framework of his paintings. Ligare has sought to understand and reveal in his work some of the most fundamental elements of Western thought. The paintings in History share these secrets and they do so elegantly, simply and beautifully.
David Ligare (born 1945, Oak Park, IL) studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. He has shown his paintings in many solo exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, London, Rome, San Francisco, Seattle and elsewhere. His work can be found in numerous permanent collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco; the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT; the Frye Art Museum, Seattle; and the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. In June 2015, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA will present the retrospective: David Ligare: California Classicist. This traveling exhibition will be accompanied by a major monograph on the artist. Ligare lives and works in Salinas, CA.