Jim Morphesis




Since the 1980s, Jim Morphesis has been one of the most influential members of the expressionist art movement in Los Angeles. Morphesis most often works serially, on imagery and themes as varied as the Passion of the Christ (influenced by his Greek Orthodox upbringing), nude torsos (inspired by Rembrandt and Soutine) and universal symbols of mortality, including skulls and roses. His paintings of the Passion are grounded in art history, sharing aspects with Diego Velázquez’s Christ on the Cross and Giovanni Bellini’s Pieta, but are made undeniably modern by his sensuous, textured surfaces. For the past four decades, his paintings have communicated a deep, universal concern with the dehumanization of society throughout history.

Morphesis’s most recent series focuses on red roses. The artist calls the series “Time and Desire” and, indeed, the rose has represented both over time. To the Ancient Greeks and Romans, it was an attribute of Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of love, sex and desire. To medieval Christians, the red rose represented the blood of Christian martyrs. As such, the rose was a spiritually infused memento mori. In Morphesis’ sensual rose paintings, the full, ripe blooms fill the frame, their deep red petals vacillating between bleeding wounds and swollen labia. Crystalline drops of clear liquid slide over the curved biomorphic surfaces, heightening the erotic fragility of the compositions. Roses are fully open for only a short number of hours, then the petals fall into dry, brown death, losing both their heady scent and their velvety surfaces.

Rose Study XI 2011 | 17x17 oil, enamel, gouache & collage on paper | 662.17.06
© 2018 Inland Empire Museum of Art
All Art © by The Artist