J. Wren Supak
J. Wren Supak is an artist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota who maintains a strong focus on abstract painting as a physical means of exploring experience. Supak’s paintings are colorful engagements that initially seem to suggest a singular, sheer surface. However when observed more closely, each painting opens up an engaging terrain that carries a built-up and carved-out veneer. For Supak, painting is a metaphor for the body. The idea of the figure, moreover, is enlivened by different combinations of color and texture.
In 2016 Supak was commissioned to make a painting titled First we removed our shoes for [RE]Telling, a group exhibition curated by Robyn Awend in partnership with the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota. The head curator of Yad Vashem of Israel came for the show and gave commentary as well as a talk. Supak’s First we removed our shoes (2016) is an abstract composition alluding to the presence of a standing figure that quickly disappears into an overwhelming volume of blue. By responding to the Nazis’ inhumane use of Zyklon B, First we removed our shoes (2016) reveals the tendency of observers to seek a form before context. This painting remains on loan to and on display at the Tychman Shapiro Gallery of the Sabes Jewish Community Center, located in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
Supak introduced a new series of oil-on-canvas paintings in 2017 titled Afterimage. Inspired by the indistinct image that appears briefly when eyelids close, the artist presents representations of a non-verbal experience that highlight the significance of the ineffable. After 2018, this series was followed by Soft Time, a selection of works on paper that consist of thinned oil paint that is poured on to Arches paper. J. Wren Supak increases her interaction across these works and explores the limits of paper fiber by compressing oil pigments further with sticks, sponges and brushes. Soft Time is currently on view at the University of Minnesota Physicians Mill City Clinic Gallery. Curated by Donna Bruni Cox, this group of new paintings remains on view to the public until October 25, 2019.
Painting for J. Wren Supak has always been personal, especially when considered in relation to the historical context of Nazi Germany, the plight of Europe’s Jewish and Roma population. In Supak’s view, abstract paintings is essential to the exploration of experience.
J. Wren Supak exhibited art at Art Basel Miami in 2014. In 2015 she exhibited work for the first time in Hungary, following a summer residency at the Hungarian Multicultural Center. In 2016 the artist received a Master of Fine Arts from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and in 2019 she completed a Master of Arts in Human Rights at the University of Minnesota where she researched the role of art in human rights justice. She continues to steadily exhibit in group and annual solo shows to a national and international collector base. In the Summer of 2018, Supak was a researcher at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá where she focused on the role of art in peace-seeking, ultimately presenting this research as a speaker at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. She is a noted scholar and educator on the role of art, storytelling and justice. During the summer, the artist’s video painting, Body of Water (2016-2019), appeared in the Mini Video Art Fest and then at the Mamü Gallery in the show Earth, Air, Wind, Fire curated by Beata Szechy. Both exhibits took place in Budapest, Hungary. J. Wren Supak is Co-Director for Voice to Vision, a project at the University of Minnesota. Supak recently wrote a book chapter on the role of art in human rights for a textbook on art and museum education by Rutledge press in 2021.
In order of appearance below: Soft time (2019), Transitions (2019), Blue Chicken on Bones (2019), Showy Lady Slipper (2019), and The Graduate (2019)