Artist Profile: Alan Gerson

Thom Bennett

Alan Gerson’s upcoming exhibition at LeMieux Galleries is titled Children’s Garden, though this collection of new paintings is no walk in
the park.

Sure, if you glance quickly at them, their bold colors and big, bulbous shapes can give a friendly, almost whimsical impression. But look closer, and there seems always to be a dark side seeping in from the edges, a note of discord or unease humming below the surface. You see a small figure walking among a cluster of topiary and wonder if he’ll get lost in their dark huddles. When another canvas shows a boy sitting on a window ledge, you’re aware of how far a fall it would be should he teeter.

This is Gerson’s style all over. It’s a slice of magical realism that treads the dream world with one eye over its shoulder and a dark, sometimes twisted sense of humor urging it on. When Gerson paints a rose, the thorns are as prominent as the red petals.

“A lot of these themes are working out my ideas of the real world and the dream world, the happiness we all hope for and the failures we all face,” Gerson says.

Gerson is part of a family that once ran dry goods and clothing stores along Dryades Street and Tulane Avenue when those stretches were bustling shopping hubs. He thought he’d go into business, too, but a persistent habit of sketching out his ideas and visions eventually led to serious art study, especially in etching and printmaking.  

He later spent what he describes now as “three long, horrible years” working as an attorney. Though jurisprudence didn’t suit him, the stint did inspire a whole vein of artwork as he satirized courtroom scenes in watercolor like allegorical editorial cartoons.

Children’s Garden follows a line of earlier exhibitions featuring a recurring, semi-autobiographical character Gerson calls his “goofy guy,” a figure dropped unmercifully into the unusual situations the artist envisions.

“It’s a continuation of the idea of the unreachable land of childhood that you can never get back to,” he explains. “When you’re young, you don’t understand things; everyone is a giant; the world becomes a magical place because that’s the only way you can understand it.”

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