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  • Natalie Taylor

TODAY’S ARTISTS OF SAN MIGUEL: Hiding in plain sight

Just as the ancient artworks of San Miguel de Allende can often be difficult to locate, sometimes current artists seem to be hidden, and need to be found. The case in point is Andrew Klein.

Since I have been highlighting the current artists of San Miguel for the past few years, I was recently contacted by a friend who suggested I might consider Andrew as a subject. I immediately did what I always do when that happens; I went on the internet and looked up his works. The reason I do this is that it gives me an idea of the type of work an artist does, and its quality. Often I get recommendations of works that may be cute, interesting, but even at first glance can only be classified as products of a “weekend artist.”

But most importantly, the work needs to “speak to me.” Sometimes, someone’s artworks are extremely well executed, even highly appreciated in some circles, perhaps even on a larger scale. And yet, if the art itself is not something that appeals to me, I would have a difficult time writing an article with my heart in it, and the resulting narrative would fall flat. It might as well be a piece written by GPT! As Marc Chagall said: “If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing”

So I choose those artists whose works impress, or challenge me, works that often bring a smile of appreciation at first glance. The works themselves call out to be better understood. I don’t simply interview the artist, I interview his, or her works.

Of course, I did the same with Andrew Klein, whom I did not know at all. I looked him up online, did a search of his paintings, and I was immediately taken by his works. This was no “weekend” artist, by any means! Indeed, his background includes an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, a master’s from Indiana State University, and studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. But even more impressive is the fact that he has been an artist for sixty years, and has had multiple exhibitions of his works around the world.  He also taught painting for twenty years in the US, and Israel.

Andrew Klein’s artwork has zigzagged through six decades—just as he himself has—changing settings, styles, and approaches to life, and nature. He was born in Hungary and, as a little boy, was on a train with his mother, heading toward Auschwitz. Fortunately they were diverted, and ended up in Vienna, from where they walked back all the way to Budapest. Then in 1949, his father’s brother who had immigrated to the US, sent them a ticket to come to Chicago. That is how the family ended up in the Windy City.

Even as a youngster, Andrew was known as “the artist” in school, and his work was so good, that in his teens he participated in a drawing contest given by the Chicago Art Institute. After drawing for three hours, he was among those chosen for a scholarship at the school. But he chose a different path, starting at the University of Illinois, then moving to Northwestern for a degree in cultural anthropology. This was one of the detours, or “zigs,” in his life and artistic career. He did eventually study at the Art Institute, but that was sometime after the offer of a scholarship, and he paid his tuition by driving a cab around Chicago.

Some of Andrew’s the earliest paintings were portraits. But landscapes, and eventually nature seem to have been the subjects that captivated him. During his years of living in Boston in the 2000s, he produced a series of wonderful urban landscapes of the city.

They look like photographic snapshots of angles, and openings that give you an unusual vision of a building, or the sky. There is a melancholy feel to these paintings. In spite of the scenes being in daylight, there is an Edward Hopper sense of isolation, of the distancing that the modern city creates between nature and man.  Even more evident in Andrew’s paintings, because no human beings are present. Aside from the emotional impact, what we see is his focus on form—“it is all about form,” he stated during our interview. In these cityscapes what dominates are the squares, arcs, and triangles formed by buildings, and the shadows.

­­­The later, and latest works of Andrew, have turned to nature and its beauty. Whether depicting an expanse of arid land, or a close up of a leaf, or a flower, Andrew Klein imbues the painting with a feeling of love and appreciation for the beauty of nature.

Currently, Andrew’s paintings are focused on nature’s intricate forms, sometimes best visualized when one comes close. Since, according to him, “one can never truly reproduce reality,” what he does with his close scrutiny of plants is an attempt, as he explains, “to represent the ineffable.”

Sometimes, Andrew points out, such extreme proximity reveals nature’s strangeness, and allows us to see—paraphrasing Picasso—a common object in a new, unique way. A good example of such organic paintings, inspired by cactuses and succulents, is one of his latest creations. It’s a stylized painting of a cactus, which does indeed shape itself in such strange ways that it makes us ask wonder whether it’s a plant, an animal, or an alien, creature in an alien universe. It is actually one of the many cactuses that grow in Andrew’s garden, and inspire his paintings.

You can see the works of Andrew Klein at the Blue Moon Gallery, an artist collaborative located on Stirling Dickinson 7. The phone number is 558-791-0458.

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