E.C. Corbitt - The Comedian of Horror
If one accepts the current Postmodernist perspective on the development of “modernism” in painting, several faulty assumptions about its history become evident. The popular view that painting passed through a series representational phases – Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, etc., only to triumph in the achievements of pure abstraction, now appears historically naive and dominated by a Western European bias.
Very few artists, whether in their vision or their work, have so successfully challenged the simplicity of this view as E.C. Corbitt. A few international painters – Francis Bacon, Paul Cadmus, Lucien Freud – while deeply influenced by trends in twentieth-century art, have also remained committed to representation of the human figure.
Corbitt, who spent the last twenty-five years working in Europe, also retains the centrality of the figure, while incorporating aspects of the American art scene – the various forms of Pop, Op, and Conceptual Art – that consolidate his American experience and give his work a unique vision. His technical ability, use of colour, and refreshing sense of wit – combined with a healthy dose of sarcasm (derived, it appears, from an early exposure to Mad Magazine) - involve the viewer in a stimulating journey.
His work, therefore, challenges the legitimacy of certain classifications in contemporary art; it draws from the past, yet ridicules and even mocks many of its pretensions. Whether confronting contemporary events, reflecting on themes in classic modern literature, or indulging in pure fantasy, he brings a freshness of approach to a field that has grown weary of obvious imitation and tiresome redundancy. Any attempt to summarize his work within the traditional forms of dialogue fails to convey the richness of his approach or the impact of his genius.
Rev’d Michael Cunningham FRSA