In Gary Erbe's work, The three flat, abstracted figures are painted to resemble cardboard or paper cutouts.

Gary Erbe

American, b. 1944

Take Five, 1982

Oil on canvas

64 x 54 inches

Signed and dated lower left

Continuing in the centuries-old tradition of trompe l’oeil, or fool the eye, Gary Erbe transforms the ordinary still life painting into a technical and visual masterpiece. Erbe’s style and subject matter are characteristically unique because they often evoke memories of his childhood. Comic books, sports memorabilia, food, Americana, and images drawn from television and film are sometimes humorously combined in a style reminiscent of Pop Art. Erbe coined the term “levitational realism” to describe his illusionistic style where inanimate objects are suspended in air, appearing to float within the composition.

In Take Five, a trio of musicians has just finished a break, evidenced by the discarded cigarette butts, a cup, and flask. The three flat, abstracted figures are painted to resemble cardboard or paper cutouts. Their instruments, a trombone, snare drum, accordion, tambourine and clarinet are suspended in space and painted with careful precision to appear three-dimensional. In this painting, the trompe l’oeil handling of details not only fools the eye, but it engages the viewer through the juxtaposition of the realistic objects against the flat surface.

In Gary Erbe's work, The three flat, abstracted figures are painted to resemble cardboard or paper cutouts.