Old World Meets New World: Paul Pretzer in Dresden and New York

It's always gratifying to discover new artists, especially younger artists who take risks and who reflect their own personal development in their pieces. Paul Pretzer, a Dresden, Germany-based painter who is showing at the Marc Straus Gallery on New York's Lower East Side, is just that sort of artist. His show, which is running through March 17, gives the viewer the opportunity to experience the ongoing evolution of his work as Pretzer himself discovers new environments and inspirations.


At the preview I attended, Pretzer explained that his work is rooted in classical painting and relies on three central components: color, form and the narrative of the piece. It all feels very European, very Old World. Undeniably, a number of the paintings that Pretzer shipped over from his studio in Germany do evoke the Old World. The colors are dark and his nods to the Old Masters are unmistakable.


Yet taking a walk around the gallery, one gets a sense that Pretzer's creative process is rooted as much in the New World as in the Old World these days. He's been painting in a studio on the Lower East Side of New York. As with many artists before him, it's clear that New York is now creeping into his work. There are new vibrant colors and there is more humor. His evolution as an artist is exciting to watch partly because anyone who has found himself inspired and transformed by New York City understands how the city can change you. It drives creativity, forces you to break away from convention and ultimately, allows you to re-invent yourself for the first or the tenth or the fiftieth time. With Pretzer, these changes take the form of vibrant and interesting new pieces that complement his work from Europe.


Pretzer's creative process and his work remind me of jazz improvisation. Like a jazz musician, whose ability to improvise is central to his work, Pretzer absorbs the world around him and then translates that world into his painting. You can trace elements of his paintings back to things he sees on the streets, people he has met and stories he has heard. He gives us something similar - say an animal or an empty can of soda - and then asks us to see it differently and to engage our own creativity. Just as he takes risks, we are asked to step up to the plate and think outside of the box.

It's exciting to see an artist who embraces figurative and classical styles while also embracing freedom and risk. Hopefully, Pretzer will continue to paint both in Europe and the United States. The conversation between his work on both continents will likely keep his fans guessing where he will go next.

All photos used with the permission of MARC STRAUS LLC