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Chris Rush, Titus Castanza, Wes Hempel

Dates: January 5 - March 5, 2016
Location: Etherton Gallery
135 S. Sixth Avenue
Gallery Hours: 11 - 5 Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment
Contact: info@ethertongallery.com, 624-7370


Etherton Gallery presents New School of Figurative Painting
In Portrayal featuring Wes Hempel, Chris Rush, Titus Castanza

Tucson, January 9, 201: Etherton Gallery’s new exhibition, Portrayal, features three artists that exemplify the new school in figurative painting: Wes Hempel, Chris Rush and Titus Castanza. Characterized by a renewed desire for a “humanistic connection to art” according to art impresario, Jeffrey Deitch, the new prominence of socially concerned portraiture reflects the Instagram generation’s yearning for a more connected cultural life. Hempel, Rush and Castanza inscribe the stories we tell about ourselves using photography and video and share through social media, into the traditional fine arts. 

On view in the in-house pop-up, a selection of portraits from Dustin Leavitt’s series, Bertillonage.  And in collaboration with the Tucson Jazz Festival Etherton will also feature a selection of photographs of jazz greats by Herman Leonard (1923-2010) in the pop-up. Portrayal opens with an artist reception from 7-10pm, Saturday, January 9, 2016.  The show runs through March 5, 2016. Carl Hanni will be spinning tunes, and there will be a special surprise performance that adds to the celebration of the figure!

Terry Etherton, owner of Etherton Gallery notes: I am excited that we are able to continue the tradition of bringing world-class art work to Tucson as we look ahead to the gallery’s 35th anniversary.”

In Portrayal, Hempel, Rush and Castanza push the boundaries of the canon, which has a history of hostility to issues relating to identity. Wes Hempel’s elegant paintings feature shirtless or nude men in settings appropriated from Arcadian landscapes, revisioning our cultural history to include the gay experience. The lyrical explorations of self by artist Titus Castanza, redraw our ideas about the persona of the artist who works from outside the academy. And for over a decade working in multiple media, Chris Rush has made visible those kept in the shadows: the disabled, the homeless and the criminal. Rush exploits strategies drawn from street art, photography, as well as fin de siècle American painter John Sargent, to make us see the individual beauty and stories of his subjects. Speaking recently Rush noted, “My new work is quite democratic, open-ended, organic.  These are faces that I love and that speak to me of some mystery of inner life, of pride, sadness, and wonder.“

Etherton Gallery is pleased to present three painters at the forefront of the new movement in figurative painting  -- Wes Hempel, Chris Rush and Titus Castanza  -- and look forward to sharing their work with the Tucson community.

For more information contact Daphne Srinivasan at Etherton Gallery, (520) 624-7370 or info@ethertongallery.com


Wes Hempel
California-born Wes Hempel received a bachelor’s degree from California State University at Northridge and completed an MA at the University of Colorado, Boulder. A resident of Colorado and Tucson, Arizona, Hempel, a painter, has received awards in both painting and literature, including two creative fellowship awards from the Colorado Council on the Arts.

Hempel’s extensive 25-year exhibition history includes 20 solo shows and dozens of selected group exhibitions throughout the United States including museums and galleries in San Francisco, New York, and Santa Fe, including the George Billis Gallery, New York; Robischon Gallery, Denver; Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco; and the Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado. His classically inspired narrative oil paintings have been written about, featured, and critiqued in dozens of publications as wide ranging as The American Art Collector, The Elements of Literature textbook, Great American Writers of the Twentieth Centry and New American Paintings.

The artist is represented in the public and corporate collections of the Denver Art Museum, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT; the Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, NY; the Leslie Lohman Foundation, New York, NY; Microsoft Corporation, Seattle, WA; and the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Denver, Colorado among many others.


Chris Rush
Chris Rush’s practice comprises installation, painting and drawing. His work has been exhibited in several one-person and group shows at the Phoenix Art Museum; the Drawing Center, NY, NY; the Tucson Museum of Art; Etherton Gallery, Tucson, AZ; Jack the Pelican, Williamsburg, NY; the Golden Eye Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Gescheidle Gallery, Chicago, IL; Peter Bartlow Gallery, Chicago, IL; Togonon Gallery, San Francisco CA; and Tatistcheff Gallery, NY, NY.

Rush is the recipient of numerous public art commissions, including awards by the Tucson International Airport (December, 2008-February, 2009), featuring a large installation of works on paper; the City of Tucson, Tucson Park Avenue Basin project (2008), comprising a newly constructed flood wall decorated with a series of portraits of residents of the Barrio and San Antonio neighborhoods; and the City of Phoenix, Phoenix Museum of History project (2006), showcasing an outdoor installation, The Same Now Is Usual, featuring 20 large charcoal portraits superimposed on documents, some of which were reproduced from items in the Phoenix History Museum’s archive.

Chris Rush has also won numerous awards including, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico Fellowship and Residency (2006); First Prize, The Pastel Journal, National Pastel 100 Competition (2005); an fellowships from the Puffin Foundation Ltd; (2004); the Arizona Commission on the Arts (2001).

His work has been the subject of articles, critical reviews and featured in scholarly publications including, Thomas, “Uninhabitable Worlds,” Somatoshere (2015); Sandell, Dodd and Garland Thomson, Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, (2012); Garland Thomson, Staring: How We Look (2009); The Artists Magazine (2006); Contemporary Magazine (2006); Pure Color: The Best of Pastel (2006). Rush’s work is in private and public collections including, the Phoenix Art Museum, The Tucson Museum of Art and the City of Tucson.


Titus Castanza
Titus Castanza has lived and worked as a studio artist in Tucson for the past ten years. Currently, his focus is on traditional oil painting of portraits, cityscapes and still life. He was born in 1975 in Saddlebrook, NJ and received his B.F.A. in 2001 from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL. Thereafter, he worked as a staff artist for The Franklin Mint in Philadelphia along with many other collectibles companies.

Castanza decided to abandon his illustration career of nearly ten years to come to Tucson and dedicate his life to his painting.


Dustin Leavitt
Dustin Leavitt (b. 1955) is a writer and visual artist. He received his B.A. in English Literature from the University of Arizona in 1978 and his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the same institution in 2002.

In the 1970s Leavitt worked on a tramp freighter in the Bering Sea and as a square-rig sailor in the Caribbean. In the early 1980s he took up commercial fishing in Hawaii and then worked in the exhibitions departments of several art museums. He ran the exhibitions production department of The Center for Creative Photography from 1990 until 2002. In 2004 he fetched up on the shores of academia and is currently an Associate Professor teaching in the Creative Writing and Visual & Media Studies departments of the University of Redlands. He lives half the year in Southern California and the other half in Tucson, Arizona.

Leavitt produces drawings, photographs, visual book works, and works of writing. His writing has appeared in a variety of periodicals, journals, and anthologies, and his visual work in gallery and museum exhibitions.


Herman Leonard (1923-2010)
President Bill Clinton has called Herman Leonard, "The greatest jazz photographer in the history of the genre." Born March 6, 1923, Herman's most influential teacher was master portrait photographer, Yousuf Karsh, with whom Herman spent a year as an apprentice to from 1947-1948. 

He spent the next 40 years focusing on fashion, advertising, and the prolific jazz scene.

In 1988 he moved to London where he had the first exhibition of his jazz photographs at the Special Photographers Company to great critical acclaim. After an exhibit in New Orleans in 1991, he fell in love with the city and moved there to immerse himself in its lively jazz and blues scene. He continued to exhibit his work around the world in numerous solo shows.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed Herman's home and studio. The storm claimed some 8,000 silver gelatin photographs that had been hand printed by him, a master printer in his own right. Following the devastation of Katrina, Leonard moved to Studio City, California, and re-established his life and business there.

Herman's jazz photographs, now collector's items, are a unique record of the jazz scene of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The Smithsonian claims 155 original Herman Leonard photographic prints in its permanent collection.

On August 14, 2010, Herman Leonard passed away, surrounded by his family in Los Angeles, CA at the age of 87. He was celebrated by hundreds of friends and fans with a traditional “second line” jazz funeral through the streets of the New Orleans French Quarter.


Etherton Gallery
Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Etherton Gallery is considered the premier fine art photography gallery in the Southwest and is known for its extensive collection of vintage, classic and contemporary photography. The gallery participates in Classic Photographs LA, the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair, Paris Photo Los Angeles, Texas Contemporary, and The AIPAD Photography Show and has long-standing relationships with museums, corporations and private collectors around the world. Etherton Gallery is located at 135 S. 6th Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701. For more information please contact Etherton Gallery at (520) 624-7370 or info@ethertongallery.com