Alexander Wagman Biography

Born in Russia, Alex Wagman was attracted to art as a child, drawing and sculpting images from American popular culture. With his family, he emigrated to Israel in 1957. Wagman studied electronics in a technical institute, and worked in that field for five years. Following three years in the army, including the Six Day War, in 1972 he emigrated to the United States.

From the mid-1970s, Wagman developed and built residential apartment buildings in New York City. During his years as the head of his own firm, he participated in all phases of the design process. Since 1990, Wagman has lived with his wife and two sons in Old Westbury, NY, where his studio is located. He and his wife traveled abroad extensively, where the pursuit of art has continued to be an importantfacet of his self-education as an artist. In the mid-1990s, Wagman realized that his true passion was sculpture, and he began to construct large figures, using metal armatures and concrete. Creating art became his full-time pursuit, as he taught himself a variety of techniques, including stone carving, modeling in plasticine, mold making, and developing patinas. He absorbed the intricacies of bronze casting, learning from the artisans at foundries on Long Island.

Early on, Wagman started working in series that he considers ongoing, beginning with the sculptures of "Human Ordeal", beggars in poses of supplication, and "Performers", images of jugglers, buskers, and jesters. Devoted to an expressive realism, the artist has noted that, "The challenge is to strive creatively to strike a balance between sculptural form and the essence of the human condition." To this end, Wagman's work examines the sublime, the absurd, and the ridiculous in his survey of humankind's behavior. There are the devoted lovers of his "Romance" series (including a large-scale portrait of his wife) and the anguished busts of the "Mindset" series. In the latter, inner states of feeling are expressed in surreal eruptions that emerge from the heads of the male figures. Even these extreme states are depicted with Wagman's characteristic interest in close observation. In recent sculptures in the "Speaking With Hands" series, the artist focuses on the subjectís face and his hand in gestures of defiance or contempt, such as thumbing the nose.

Wagman's interest in the depiction of the human form and social behavior connects him with artistís such as Rodin and Daumier. He has an affinity for 20th century German satirists such as George Grosz, and the contemporary American artist Charles Bragg.

Wagman's own satirical bent is clearly expressed in his "Mockery" series, which turns its attention to the public sphere. There are biting, incensed portrayals, such as the vision of the great "Liberator" as a strutting chicken, complete with military jacket and cigar. In a new piece, "Uncle Sam" is being pulled and nearly tipped over by diminutive figures who represent the political extremists that Wagman sees as trying to hijack the Republic.