Reconciled: Michael Hafftka
September 12 – October 4, 2015
Georges Bergès Gallery
462 West Broadway New York, New York 10012
Reconciled reflects over 20 years of the fearless and dazzling work of Michael Hafftka. It is not a show so much of portraits as it is in fact a collection of human stories, with each painting capturing in its subjects the essential data of their existence.
Being the son of Holocaust survivors is what perhaps creates the level of darkness that dances along the surface of his work. Somewhere hovering at the margins of his palette lurks uncertainty, but his pace and delivery plants each piece firmly in dreamlike scenarios, offering authority while surrendering to something almost cryptic yet familiar.
Art in America describes his paintings as “proof of an astonishing integrity of style,” and the author and art historian David Shapiro, who is subject in one of the exhibiting watercolors, “There is in him Soutine and Bacon, a space opened for the scream of creatures; He is not afraid of pathos and the nightmares of Goya.” Enticing you in, each painting brings you in close to tell you their story. Seducing you to stay longer; daring you to discover each one’s deepest secrets.
Hafftka’s oil on canvas pieces are monumental, his muses in some cases are life size, catching us in the act of looking as they stare back at the viewer. That feeling that his subjects are sometimes in the room with us is especially potent in Visitors, where two men sit apart but with feet touching.
There is a sense of intimacy in the piece but also estrangement, or embarrassment, as the character on right sits uneasy, his posture suggesting disaffection while below his knees says just the opposite.
In addition to his mostly large-scale oils on canvas are over a dozen smaller watercolor and mixed media paintings, revealing the breadth of his technique and vision.
In this body of work, Hafftka produces a new range of manipulation and ingredients.
In a process that looks effortlessly –almost haphazardly- applied, its delivery and final composition feels measured and deliberate. These images speak to our irrational fears and desires, what our esoteric and hidden psyche might resemble. Like his oils, they are as puzzling as they are candid, a familiar place in a city we’ve never been.
Reconciled is on view through Monday October 4 at Georges Bergès Gallery in New York City. Michael Hafftka’s art is in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many other museums in the United States and abroad.
 Gerrit Henry. Art in America. 1984.
 David Shapiro. To Die Next To You: Rodger Kamenetz and Michael Hafftka. Berkeley: Six Gallery Press, 2013.