Misha Kligman: The Luminous and The Given

On view May 1 through September 1, 2024

Blooming trees on fire. Silhouettes of children are voids filled with stars. Everything is accidental, nothing is accidental. Figures become the landscape, are of the landscape, return to the landscape and are absorbed back by it. Attempts at repair, the need to be forgiven, an inability to forgive. An intuition that things are animated by a mysterious force that is both brutal and beautiful to the point of the unbearable. A sea of grief underneath it all. Birds that are miraculously the colors of rainbows, drops of dew shimmering like crystals on the morning grass. An aging man smelling flowers. A figure in the snow forgetting his past for a moment. Endlessly changing seasons.

—Misha Kligman

In conversations with Misha Kligman about his work, themes of forgiveness that transcend time and ideology emerge. As he approaches the work of painting, the artist taps into a current of grief that spans history. But beyond human will and action, Kligman describes the impossibility of depicting a mystical force he senses underneath everything, noting, “Most of that which concerns me can't be represented, yet it's calling to be represented.”

In the works on view, a sincere question is posed about how to make sensations of light come to life in paint; glittering reflections give shape to water, colorful bands of light refract around a white star, flakes of snow settle on a collar or melt in purple rivulets on the road. Time, perspective, and context are altered as trees interrupt forms, the forest floor shifts, voids erase matter, and prisms of color break through. The titles of the works are expressive, pointing to fear, wisdom, transcendence, and the inescapable. As tempting as it may be to assemble a narrative with these elements, the images in the paintings are not intended as a series of symbols for the viewer to decode, but a place for the transmutation of beauty and grief.

—Erin Dodson, Curator of the Hallmark Art Collection

This exhibition in the Nerman Museum’s McCaffree Gallery will feature paintings made over the past five years. Kligman is interested in the poetic potential of often mysterious connections between seemingly unrelated objects and events. In this body of work, driven in large part by mystical encounters with nature, Kligman presents visions tangled with premonitions, while dreams and reality collide to reveal the luminous in the given.

Misha Kligman was born in Kazan, Soviet Union, in 1978, and immigrated to the U.S. with his family as a refugee in 1995. He received his bachelor’s degree in art from Cleveland State University in 2001 and master’s in painting and drawing from the University of Kansas in 2009.

Kligman is a recipient of the 2015 Charlotte Street Visual Art Fellowship and completed a three-year residency at Studios INC in Kansas City, MO. Kligman is a founding member of PLUG Projects, where he served as a co-director from 2011 to 2016. During Kligman’s time with PLUG Projects, the gallery received funding from the Francis Family Foundation, ArtsKC and a Rocket Grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation, Spencer Museum of Art, and Charlotte Street Foundation.

Kligman’s work has been published in New American Paintings and exhibited at the H&R Block Artspace (Kansas City, MO), Haw Contemporary (Kansas City, MO), the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (Overland Park, KS), and Elmhurst Art Museum (Elmhurst, IL). Kligman’s exhibitions have been reviewed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Lawrence Journal-World and the Kansas City Star, among others. Kligman lives and works in Kansas City, MO, and is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Johnson County Community College.