|Artist Andrew Ogus and his â€śMythologiesâ€ť show at Magnet. Photo by Rink.
The distinctive artwork of Andrew Ogus is on display for this month in the gallery at Magnet â€“ the Castro hub of health and social wellbeing. Ogus was born in Washington D.C, and grew up in a Maryland suburb. He said his â€śordinary life was punctuated by my fatherâ€™s occasional work for the United Nations, which twice brought us to Israel to live.â€ť They were there during the Suez Crisis of 1956 â€“ 57 caused the evacuation of all foreign dependents.
They lived in a tiny hotel across from the Pantheon, played in the Forum, and went to every museum in town. After five and a half months they were reunited with their father, and eventually left Israel to travel through Europe on the way home. During this trip they visited the remains of Pompeii, where the adult men were shown certain mysterious murals while the women and children waited in the ancient street. â€śMy circumspect father never told me what they were,â€ť said Ogus. He came to the Bay Area in 1970 and met his partner in 1974, helping him raise his two children from an earlier relationship. They were married last year during the flurry of same-sex marriages. â€śWe now have three beautiful grandchildren,â€ť he said.
Ogusâ€™ mixed media works are on paper - a combination of drawing and printmaking. The basic inspiration comes from the beauty of men and classical mythologies, which still resonate today, he said. As far as he knows, no one else does quite this combination of techniques. He begins by â€śsaucingâ€ť 100% rag printmaking papers with washes of water based acrylic ink. Then he develops a border area with oil based lithography inks. The paper may go through the press at this point, though recently he said he has been applying the litho ink by hand or with a brush or roller for greater control and to bring out details of the acrylics below. He might use a variety of stencils in this area. His goal is to simulate ancient Roman wall paintings on paper. â€śWhen itâ€™s ready, I choose the model who fits each paper,â€ť he said â€śI donâ€™t know ahead of time who is going to go where, or what the subject will be.â€ť
In the earlier drawings, he used found photos; but he prefers photographing people himself. â€śIâ€™m always looking for new models; interesting faces come first,â€ť said Ogus. â€śGenerally I work on several at a time.â€ť After the drawing is in place he starts working on the mosaic background, if he feels itâ€™s an appropriate solution for a particular piece. The mosaics are usually done with acrylics, but sometimes he uses litho inks. Lately he has been moving back and forth between the border, drawing, and mosaic processes. â€śSometimes I think a piece is finished and put it away, only to come back to it and realize it needs more work.â€ť He added, â€śHowever, Iâ€™ve learned the hard way that if I donâ€™t know exactly what to do next, I should do nothing.â€ť
Is there a message he wants to convey in his work? â€śLook, look, look at the infinite beauty and variation in the human face. Look at color. Look at the world.â€ť Does he have favorites? â€śWhatever Iâ€™m actually working on while Iâ€™m working on it tends to be pretty much a favorite. Then after I decide itâ€™s done, I have a few moments of delight which quickly turns to despair,â€ť he answered. â€śI put the piece away and eventually I donâ€™t feel so bad about it. Periodically I purge my flat files.â€ť
From left to right on the wall: â€śCastor and Pollux 2â€ť â€“ This series, based on the myth of the devoted twins who became the Gemini, always consists of two drawings based on a single person. The mosaic in this particular piece, perhaps suggesting the doors of the Underworld, was added long after he thought the drawing was done. â€śCastor and Pollux 5â€ť â€“ This was the first time he did a background mosaic; he worked on it while recovering from knee surgery. â€śOriginally I tried to make a complicated pattern of the occurrence of the metallic squares, but I quickly realized that was impractical,â€ť he said. â€śNow I put the oddly colored squares in by instinct, but usually in multiples of five (my favorite number).â€ť â€śCastor and Pollux 3â€ť â€“ This is closer in style to the earlier pieces in the Icon series. The light strips of color were done with stencils; the heavy color to the right on a plate with hand application was accomplished after the paper went through the press. â€śVenus and Adonisâ€ť â€“ The boar motifs are copied from an ancient Greek vase painting.
â€śJudgment of Paris 11â€ť â€“ This piece was too explicit for a gallery show in Ventura last year; it had to be replaced at the last minute. The Greek word was written on the Golden Apple. It means â€śFor the fairest.â€ť â€śIcon 80â€ť â€“ This particular piece was â€śan exercise in obliteration; I kept painting and covering up until it worked,â€ť he said. â€śCastor and Pollux 17â€ť â€“ Another example of obliteration. â€śThe background patterns were much too complex until I covered them with a red wash.â€ť It is a modernized version of Greek vase painting. â€śCastor and Pollux 14â€ť â€“ The model is Allen Silver, who has worked with photographer Dick Bianchi, and appeared in adult films for Titan and Pantheon. â€śCastor and Pollux 24â€ť â€“Some of the background motifs were done with stencils. Perhaps stylistically the background is the most â€śRomanâ€ť piece in the show. â€śHowever, it is somewhat anachronistic to place mosaics behind the figures,â€ť he said. The Romans did not combine mosaic and wall paintings in this manner.â€ť
â€śI hope my art will fill viewersâ€™ heads with ideas, but they wonâ€™t know exactly what they are,â€ť Ogus concluded. â€śI am always hoping to make something beautiful.â€ť