Gary Erbe is a self-taught painter from Union City, New Jersey. Unable to attend art school, he supported himself and his family as an engraver. In 1967, Erbe discovered Trompe l’oeil painting and its masters. In 1969, Erbe conceived a way of creating paintings that would be more contemporary and a departure from the 19th Century Trompe l’oeil masters.
By freeing objects from their natural surroundings via the illusion of levitation and through the juxtaposition of objects that in reality had no relationship, he could create thought provoking paintings. In the same year, Erbe coined the term “Levitational Realism”. In 1970, Erbe decided to pursue his art full time and began to actively exhibit his work.
Erbe’s work combines flat space forms that are exaggerated and enhanced by shadow, light and color. The result is pure three-dimensional illusion. While there are and will always be elements of Trompe l’oeil in his work, he has less of an interest in fooling the eye in favor of stimulating the mind.
“Over the years, I have explored the idiom of abstraction and cubism and how these modern principles can be integrated into Trompe l’oeil. I welcome the challenge of bridging the gap between modern art and realism without abandoning technique. I believe I have found ways of circumventing the so-called rules of Trompe l’oeil in favor of originality, inventiveness and creativity. Most of my work since 1970 is highly complex and can be engaged on many different levels. I have underscored the point that my work has less to do with the tenets of Trompe l’oeil and far more to do with the creative process of discovery.” -Gary Erbe
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.