Mike Hartung,  Coffee Drinkers at Hardee’s , early 1990s, acrylic on Masonite, 48 x 48 in., courtesy of the artist

Mike Hartung, Coffee Drinkers at Hardee’s, early 1990s, acrylic on Masonite, 48 x 48 in., courtesy of the artist

Gas Stations, Laundromats, and the Spaces in Between: Paintings by Mike Hartung

August 4 ‒ October 29, 2017

Since 1975 Mike Hartung has quietly maintained a studio in a loft above a storefront on Main Street in Lindsborg, Kansas. There, in relative anonymity, he has produced untold hundreds of large-scale paintings over the past four decades. He has worked without desire for notice or financial gain. This exhibition, and companion exhibitions at the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery (August 5 ‒ October 22) and the Moss-Thorns Gallery of Art at Fort Hays State University (August 25 ‒ September 15), represent the public’s first exposure to the artist’s work.

Hartung’s paintings are exuberantly cheerless, composing a veritable catalogue of human predicament. His insistence on narrative and the figure is steadfast. The artist’s subjects are not poster children for the American dream; they are denizens of a certain, darker American and human reality. His paintings are not fanciful grotesqueries, but rather emanate from an unease all too familiar and resonant. The places and spaces he depicts (gas stations, laundromats, cafes, streets, etc.) are real and part of life in central Kansas. Though much of Hartung’s imagery is psychologically wrenching, one senses, underneath it all, a pervasive and ineffable joy. Painting is, for him, an incredibly joyous act, evidence of which even the darkest themes and subjects cannot conceal.

Related Event: Opening reception, Friday, August 4, 6 ‒ 8 p.m., Salina Art Center (242 S. Sante Fe), remarks by the artist at 7 p.m.

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